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[Commentary] ‘Screen to Senate’: Why do Filipinos love celebrities in politics?

Genuine question: Why are Filipinos so obsessed with celebrities-turned-politicians? Like seriously, why?

Well, apparently, there are a number of (serious) reasons for that, but we’re just here to talk about one that is most obvious in our society: our kink for famous names.

Why’d we say kink? Other than the fact that we’re always so critical about having celebrities in the government, we never seem to make some changes about it. Hence, the use of the word “kink.”

You know how we always cringe when we see celebrities-turned-politicians on television, acting as if they know what they’re doing as public servants? You could possibly say they’re just playing another role in a show or movie, or in other words, they are now “ready for mature roles, direk!”

But this time, it’s something more serious.

[Commentary] 'Screen to Senate' Why do Filipinos love celebrities in politics
(This is an AI generated photo from Adobe)
Actually, let’s take a step back to see who even began this so-called quintessential “career trajectory” of a Filipino actor.

It’s November 1957, and the Philippines has just held its 18th general elections. Carlos P. Garcia ascended as President of the Philippines after the death of the late President Ramon Magsaysay. Pampanga Representative Diosdado Macapagal won as Vice President, beating Batangas Representative Jose Laurel Jr.

Now let’s take a look at the Senate: Oh, look at what we have here. A known movie actor, as Senator under the Liberal Party? What?

Yeah, his name was Regidor Lim de la Rosa, most popularly known as Rogelio de la Rosa. He is the first-ever Filipino actor to successfully turn his fame as a movie actor into a distinguished politician.

De la Rosa first served as Senator following his win in the 1957 general elections, actively focusing on the issues in Pampanga such as fisheries and agriculture. He also co-authored a bill that later established the Board of Censors, later known as the MTRCB.

He also ran as Presidency, but later on withdrew due to concerns about the “corrupt political machinery” of President Carlos P. Garcia and that by withdrawing, he would secure Garcia’s loss.

Despite not being elected to public office after the 1963 general elections, de La Rosa stayed in public service as a diplomat. He was first assigned as Philippine Ambassador to Cambodia in 1965, then under the Presidency of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., was named Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands, and then later on to the then-Soviet bloc countries of Poland, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. His last diplomatic post was as Philippine Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

With that, you’d think that the next entertainers-turned-politicians would be able to live up to The Honorable Rogelio de la Rosa’s career. Well, here are some names of actors who also turned their mainstream fame into politics. These are just right off the bat, by the way:

Former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada
Senator Ramon Revilla Sr.
Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
Senator Tito Sotto
Senator Jinggoy Estrada
Senator Lito Lapid
Senator Freddie Webb
Senator Robin Padilla
Leyte 4th District Representative Richard Gomez
Councilor Jhong Hilario, 1st District of Makati
Councilor Aiko Melendez, 5th District of Quezon City
Alma Moreno, Barangay Councilor of Tambo, Parañaque City
Former Mayor of Manila, Isko Moreno
Former Senator Manny Pacquiao
Former Governor of Batangas and Representative of Batangas’ 6th District from 2016-2022, Vilma Santos

And that’s not even the end of that list.

See, when we talk about celebrities in politics, we’re almost always met with disappointing takes, outlandish comments, oh, and did we forget to say…serious allegations? Compared to the man who started it all, the standard for celebrity politicians has utterly taken a route down south.

This is why most of us immediately try to dismiss any thoughts of any more celebrities fraying into the world of Philippine politics.

But at the same time, when we see celebrities having their morals straightened out while voicing their own political views, the majority of the public is clamoring for them to run in politics.

It’s so…contrary, you know? But so Filipino at the same time.

If you haven’t realized it, the reason why we love electing celebrities and popular personalities to our government is because we love the name.

But, what’s in a name when it comes to politics? Well, if it wasn’t so obvious yet, whenever we see a famous person’s name, chances are we gravitate towards it—regardless of their actions. Hence, the reason why we have so many celebrities in our government.

For example, most recently, people have been saying that host, comedian, and entertainer Vice Ganda should try his hand at politics. Of course, there were some people that weren’t keen on it because let’s face it—there should seriously be a divide between the show business and politics.

Then, here comes chronically online people again trying to get a “Gotcha!” moment when they see the same people not supportive of celebrities in politics praise the said celebrities.

Like, we can’t say good things without meaning anything else?

Now, said OP then posed a valid question, “…I thought we hated personality politics and celebrities running for government positions?”

And they’re right for asking that question. If we’re all against celebrities running for public office in future elections, why are we still pushing for more famous names in the government in the name of progressiveness?

We’re all for holding our future government officials to higher standards and regards, but we’re still at the point where we also want known celebrities in the government? Haven’t we gotten tired of this cycle yet?

Our government is already too much of a circus, what use is it if we continue placing more entertainers in it? We should take these kinds of things more seriously, because there’s more to life than electing people just because of their “good name.”


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