On May 10, the Filipino electorate will be heading to the precincts to cast their votes. They have 9 presidential candidates to choose from, coming from 7 political parties, which went through reshufflings even in the middle of the campaign period.
With “turncoatism”, political opportunism, and the sheer circus of advertisements, conflicting polls, and mudslinging, it is no wonder that the ordinary citizen is mostly confused and left vulnerable to the influence of the newest TV campaign as they are to the latest shampoo commercials. Who can keep track of it all?
With more than 30% of the populace under the poverty line and the majority struggling to sustain themselves with three square meals a day, who can keep tabs of past political controversies, gross deficiencies in public services, anomalies in government dealings – in two words: graft and corruption? The state of affairs of politics in the Philippines is so entangled, complicated, and needless to say, dirty, that it requires not only a vast memory, but also a sharp and incisive understanding of the history and intentions of all parties involved.
There are no clear platforms or party delineations, unlike the division between the blue Republicans and the red Democrats in the US, red Labour and blue Conservatives in the UK, and Thaksin Shinawatra’s red shirts vs King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s yellow shirts in Thailand.
Of course, these divisions may only be simplistic demarcations between parties that are not really that different from each other, but two colors definitely make it easier for voters than four, five, or all the colors of the rainbow.
This is the case in the Philippines, as illustrated by a hilarious caricature of five candidates running for president and vice president. The colors – orange, green, blue, yellow, and pink – do not really stand for anything, except for yellow (which was the banner color of former president Corazon Aquino, who helped topple Ferdinand Marcos, who was himself associated with the color red) and pink (which is used prominently in the city by the head of an urban authority). Colors are used in this case as part the defining characteristic of their brand names as candidates competing against each other.
They say they stand for different things, that one platform is better than the other, that experience is superior to a testament of honesty in public office. Others raise background, political allegiance, and personal achievement as their trump cards. “I am orange and you are yellow, while he is pink and they are blue”: they say this when no one can see clearly that one color will do better than the other.
So it makes perfect sense that the creator of the spoof relate them to TV series about superhero fighters. Voters are invited to pick one as their favorite – a trivial choice that will not have any effect on their day-to-day living – just like picking an idol from a roster of equally inane and only superfluously different collection of painted plastic action figures.