The Cool Kids of Summer – Electoral Edition

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Photography by JL Javier
Produced by Ina Jacobe

While corruption in our country remains stubbornly in place, the electoral campaign has most certainly changed. News travels faster; tweets are more visible than tarps; and the stage podium has been replaced by the social media platform. Whether asserting one’s agenda or deploying propaganda, the Internet has become a political battlefield. And because the mob has never been more vocal, the arena is bloodier than ever.

There’s no denying how much more difficult it is to sift through all the think pieces, thoughtless Facebook commentary, and comic memes about all our presidentiables. Still, BENCH BLOG thought that who better to be more knowledgeable about our candidates and their opponents than their Internet-savvy volunteers and the hardworking folks in their respective media relations departments?

Before the elections on May 9, we asked the young members of each presidentiable’s team to offer one final defense for their candidate. As tempers heat up online, these kids offer cool commentary so that that vote is easier to cast.

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BELLA BISCOCHO

20, Grace Poe’s On-field Social Media Manager & Media Relations Officer

Nickname for candidate: Mudra, Mudrakellz

 

Since you started working on your candidate’s campaign, has how you see her changed? 

I could list a couple of things that changed when I began this job, but what I found most surprising was her wit and humor. I never imagined her to be funny. I’ve always thought of her to be this strict, motherly figure whose sense of humor didn’t stretch. But, not only was she hilarious—she always has knock-knock jokes or brownie-style jokes as an opener for her speeches—she was actually quite youthful and in with the times too. Where else can you find a presidential candidate who would nod and lip-sync to Jireh Lim’s “Buko” while he was performing live onstage?

What do you think are the three most important issues that young Filipinos face everyday and how does your candidate address these problems?

Three things: lack of opportunity, horrifying Internet speeds, and an unnerving apathy to issues that riddle our society.

For the first, her entire platform is pretty much banked into addressing the general lack of opportunities in our country, hence the “Gobyernong May Puso, Walang Maiiwan” slogan. With that in mind, she lobbies for free college education, partnerships with corporations and government institutions so they could provide paid internships to students and fresh graduates, increasing the wages of doctors and nurses who choose to work in local hospitals, and the implementation of a free lunch program for all public elementary schools, among other things.

Senator Grace has sponsored an anti-discrimination bill in the Senate, and is one of the few candidates who has shown public and concrete support to the LGBTIQA community. For someone whose academic niche lies in gender and sexuality, it is comforting to hear a candidate mention support for SOGI. Growing up with a father whose legacy was to give the common Filipino hope, she takes that legacy to heart and applies it in her plans for the country.

Horrifying Internet speed—or the lack of it, for that matter. Anyone who has ever had access to a data plan is incredibly familiar with this problem. Sen. Grace is one of the first candidates to directly address this issue, and her solution of infrastructure plus de-monopolization seems the most plausible for me. Access to Internet is a right, and being the chairman of Public Information and Mass Media—and a champion of the FOI bill, in fact—she knows how important it is for the youth and the Filipino people to have quick and easy access to information and communication.

Last: unnerving apathy. This seems a bit less concrete, but it is a problem among our youth. A lot want easy solutions, a great majority wishing for a candidate that will rid them of their problems while they themselves do not want to change. Her platform addresses that. Her campaign is not a selfish one. Her jingle sings of “Ayusin natin ang Pilipinas” instead of “Aayusin ko ang Pilipinas.” A president is not a messiah—she’s a leader. Her platform instills in the people that all is not lost, that there is hope in the Philippines, that if we work together, our country will rise again. Walang maiiwan. Lahat aangat. Because everybody takes part in the progress.

Sen. Grace Poe is beyond empty promises. Sen. Grace Poe empowers. 

 

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Despite the Supreme Court decision upholding Poe’s natural-born citizenship, many Filipinos are still doubtful of her residency. Another issue is how her husband and children are still American citizens. How does Poe assure the Filipino people that she has the nation’s best interests at heart? 

The full-blown defense for her residency is very tl;dr, so let me just summarize it in a couple of points. One, the Supreme Court, the highest of courts in the country, has ruled—twice!—that Sen. Grace is qualified to run for President. This means that she is a natural-born Filipino Citizen and has complied with the 10-year residency requirement. Two, a number of official documents, laws and jurisprudence were presented by the good senator to prove her citizenship and residency, even if the burden of proof did not fall upon her shoulder. And three, her detractors,have failed to produce any evidence that will prove their claim that the senator is not qualified.

Sir Neil’s citizenship is actually an easier issue to resolve. He has both Filipino parents, and is a natural-born Filipino citizen. Born in the US, he is also considered a US Citizen, though it has been recently renounced, but that does not remove nor diminish his Filipino citizenship. As both Sir Neil and Sen. Grace are natural-born Filipinos, that makes their children natural-born Filipino citizens, as well. And for the record, Sir Neil Llamanzares and Brian are both registered voters and can vote for Sen. Grace.

How can she assure the people that she has the nation’s interest at heart? Simple. For starters, Sen. Grace sponsored the FOI Bill in the Senate and passed it in around eight months, an impressive feat for even the most diligent advocates of the FOI. Her advocacies, mostly centered upon the improvement of the lives of her fellow Filipinos, are enough concrete examples that she is dedicated and committed to making things better in this country.

Plus, all her kids are here, studying or having graduated from Philippine schools. She has returned for good—maybe even for the good of the nation, with the kind of people-centric service that her brand of leadership offers. Her actions, her grace, her mastery of the Filipino language are the reassurance that her heart and values will always be Filipino.

Whether your candidate wins or loses, what will you remember about this election season? And what would you like to forget? 

I’ll remember the beauty of this country that I have seen from the campaign trail, the warm smiles and thunderous cheers whenever my candidate shows her face to the waiting masses, the rush of running a few hundred meters to document a golden moment because my boss went down to personally shake the hands of a couple of FPJ fans, and the essence of hope and compassion that the Gobyernong May Puso has instilled in my own heart.

I’d like to forget about savage Internet trolls, thank you very much.

For either outcome, what would your first social media post be? 

[ photo of a sunrise against a blue sky ]

Never lose hope, never lose heart, Philippines. #GP2016

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HANS PIETER L. ARAO 

27, Jejomar Binay’s Media Affairs Officer 

Nickname for candidate: “Lolo”

 

Since you started working on your candidate’s campaign, how has how you see him/her changed? 

My candidate seems more intent to reach a greater number of people personally. Campaign sorties last well into the night, and far-flung areas that others do not bother going to are visited. Yet despite the hectic schedule, one thing hasn’t changed: he always finds time to exercise in the morning.

What do you think are the three most important issues that young Filipinos face everyday and how does your candidate address these problems?

1. Disillusionment or lack of motivation and discipline. More government-initiated activities engaging the youth that will instill age-old Filipino values like bayanihan or pagkakawang-gawa, respect for the elderly, pagkukusa, and discipline. Organizations like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of the Philippines, among others, will receive more support.

2. Education. Greater budget allocation for education so that uniforms, books, and other supplies, may be given for free. The lack of classrooms and school equipment will also be addressed. For college students, a system similar to the University of Makati’s dual-training system that has helped in students’ employment prospects will be implemented, along with the necessary re-calibration of curriculums so that they reflect the current and future needs of the jobs market.

3. Internet. Communications infrastructures will be improved so that the whole country can achieve Internet connectivity and more Filipinos have access to free Internet, which is a non-negotiable modern-day tool.

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Vice President Binay has always prided himself on his success in serving Makati for a long time. Despite consistently campaigning that he is for the “common people” and that he “wasn’t born into wealth,” voters believe that the numerous corruption allegations against him are true. How would your camp answer this controversy?

We have to remember that until now, the accusations against the Vice President are mere allegations, and only a court of law can decide whether the accused is guilty or not. What is saddening is that people readily jump to conclusions even in the absence of concrete evidence. We should be more critical of what we read—to check, check, and check the truth of the information that is easily available because of technological advances.

Whether your candidate wins or loses, what will you remember about this election season? And what would you like to forget? 

I will remember newfound friends. Also, the unsullied beauty of many places in our country and the undying hope of Filipinos despite their poverty.

For either outcome, what would your first social media post be? 

“The people have chosen. Now let’s move on.”

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NADINE RAMOS 

23, Mar Roxas’s Press Release Writer 

Nickname for candidate: Mar Roxas

 

Since you started working on your candidate’s campaign, how has how you see him changed?

When I first got the offer, I wasn’t exactly excited—to be completely honest, I never really liked Mar Roxas. Mostly for the same reasons his detractors don’t: he’s “incompetent,” he’s an “elitist,” he’s an example of the failures of the current administration. But working for Mar has shown me that he is much, much more than any of those things and to limit him to that severely discredits our communal intelligence. He’s done an astounding amount of work: from a bill supporting minimum wage earners and exempting them from income tax, a bill lowering the cost of maintenance medicines, a passenger’s bill of rights done while he was DOTC secretary, a system for checking and alerting the police on petty crime, a checklist for local government units prior to and during storms and other natural disasters—some of them seem so basic that it’s a wonder we didn’t have these things before. That’s Mar Roxas: He sees the big picture problems and finds the most efficient ways to solve them.

Suffice to say, I no longer see Mar as any of the things I did before. I sincerely believe that he’s the best person for the presidency because of the way he sees things, and understands them. I’ve attended almost all of his roundtable discussions with the major newspapers and TV networks, and every time, he astounds me with his depth of understanding. He may not be the most exciting candidate, but government doesn’t need to be exciting. The government just needs to work—and that’s what Mar is all about.

 

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What do you think are the three most important issues that young Filipinos face everyday and how does your candidate address these problems?

Three key issues that I believe are crucial to our future, not just as a country but as individuals:

Jobs
Job creation is essential for a growing economy. But more importantly, it’s what fresh graduates need. Mar’s platform hinges heavily on job creation because he’s done it before—a million jobs in the BPO-IT call center business, which has allowed numerous young Filipinos to help their families not only sustain themselves but also lift themselves out of poverty. All without having to leave the country. Mar’s platform focuses on creating opportunities for high-quality jobs through enticing investors to set up shop in the Philippines, and also through creating programs and spaces which allow the youth to be prepared for openings in those jobs.

Economy
One topic that comes up often when I meet up with my friends is—dorky as it sounds—financial stability. As early as now, we all find it important to save money and also make our money work for us. This isn’t just for our prospective families in the future or our goals to own property for security, but also for the very common desire to continue our studies. A strong, growing economy is essential for us, the working youth, to be able to sustain ourselves, support our parents, and also achieve our goals. Mar, as most people know, is an economist before a politician. Among the presidential candidates, he best suited to continue the rising trend of our GDP—not only because he’s part of the administration, but because this is his trade. Mar aims to continue and sustain the growth of the economy on numerous fronts: revitalize key sectors in manufacturing, strengthening the agricultural sector, revising the EPIRA law for cheaper but also more sustainable energy, increasing infrastructure, and even removing red tape which is often the first thing that turns away future investors. Mar’s work as DILG chief to lower crime rates also helps in creating an environment enticing to investors.

Healthcare
I have to say I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to worry whenever I get sick because I have my parents who’ll take care of me and, if needed, help me shoulder hospital bills. This, unfortunately, is not the truth for most of the population, whose lives are thrown into complete chaos should someone in their family get sick. Mar is pushing for 100% coverage of healthcare, and this was started already by the current administration. In fact, the government shouldered around P75 billion for numerous Filipinos through PhilHealth. Mar & Leni are pushing not only for 100% coverage through PhilHealth—where a birth certificate is all that’s needed for a patient to be a member—but are also pushing to build health centers in all barangays, as well as increase the pay for Barangay Health Workers. Previously as congressman, Mar also created and passed a bill which lowered costs for maintenance medicines.

And now, a chance to defend your candidate from the usual issues thrown at them:
Mar Roxas has always been an affiliate of the Liberal Party and of PNoy himself. He was entrusted by the administration with big responsibilities such as the DOTC and DILG Secretarial post. Given these circumstances, it is often that Filipinos associate the “failures” of the current administration with him. How does your camp address this issue?
We always address these issues with facts. He is the first person to admit that this administration hasn’t been perfect, and we shouldn’t be content with what it’s achieved quite yet. As he said during a meeting with businessmen, “the best is yet to come.” When people hit Mar for not fixing the problem of the MRT or traffic while he was DOTC chief, first it must be made clear that this is a very Manila-centric problem. As a cabinet secretary, there are hundreds, if not thousands of things to deal with. The fact of the matter is, it was Mar, during is 16-month stint as DOTC secretary, who terminated the anomalous contracts of the MRT—which was already, at the time, declining. The administration has also taken steps to remedy not only the MRT situation but also the traffic situation. Of course, this is glossed over because some people are of the thinking that you can just buy bridges and streets and train cars off the shelf. Change, development, and progress, all take time. And one man, unlike what other candidates say, cannot solve all the problems. That’s why this is a democracy.

Whether your candidate wins or loses, what will you remember about this election season? And what would you like to forget?

I’m going to remember how it was such a close fight, and how everyone showed their true colors—both the candidates and the supporters. I’ll remember how exhausting it was to be this close to something you’re fighting for, to have really been in the thick of it.

I’d like to forget how there were more than a few rape “joke” apologists. That was the lowest point for me. Honestly, there was a moment when I just turned off my phone and cried because I felt so terrible that there were people who were like that.

For either outcome, what would your first social media post be? 

The first thing I’d post after the elections—like right after voting, would be a picture of my finger with ink on it. Because this is the first election I’ll be voting in, and the election I was most involved in, and also the election I hope we win.

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JOLO DELGADO 

29, Volunteer for Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign 

Nickname for candidate: “Digong”

Since you started working on your candidate’s campaign, how has how you see him changed? 

My candidate, Rodrigo Duterte, has always been constant. Since he started running, up until now, he sticks to Crime and Corruption eradication and a more inclusive development. This is something I like about Duterte—he doesn’t waiver but he knows what he wants. While other candidates talk of highfaluting platforms and programs, Duterte is focused on the most basic and grounded problem in society today: drugs, criminality, and corruption and poverty.

What do you think are the three most important issues that young Filipinos face everyday and how does your candidate address these problems?

Crime, employment, and transportation. These are the main issues that concern the average young Filipino. We already know that Duterte is hard on crime from increasing salaries of police, passing the freedom of information act, lifting bank secrecy law for public officials, and most importantly, making special criminal courts to speed up the resolution of cases.

Duterte’s platform also includes developing Clark and Batangas seaports to ease congestion in Manila. Also, building fast trains linking airports and seaports while adding carriages to train lines.

His platform on economy and federalism includes abolishing taxes for 20,000 pesos and below, as well as ending contractualization of employees. Federalism will help foster economic growth in areas outside of Metro Manila.

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Mayor Duterte has always been known for being candid in his interviews. His supporters have valued his honesty throughout his campaign. However, the recent controversial comments of Mayor Digong regarding Australian Missionary Jacqueline Hamill have offended the public to the point that the issue was picked up by international news sites. Aside from releasing his most recent apology, how do you think your camp will recover from this issue and what will it do to increase it’s support for women’s rights?

We cannot deny the fact that he needs to be more careful when he speaks, but his fierce and fearless rhetoric and candor shows his political will and strength. The rape remark is a media spin by his opponents. It has never ruled “Du30” out of contributing greatly for the progress of women in Davao. This is best encapsulated by Monique Wilson’s post and open letter. What we need to do is to make more people aware that despite his candidness, he absolutely supports initiatives that forward women’s rights. His words are a product of his time, but he is also forward looking with his actions. He has banned swimsuits during beauty pageants.

Whether your candidate wins or loses, what will you remember about this election season? And what would you like to forget? 

Duterte’s campaign will long be remembered from hereon in as the People’s campaign. This is a phenomenon in itself where amongst all the presidentiables, Duterte has the least amount of money spent on his campaign and yet he enjoys unparalleled popularity. His campaign is easily distinguishable as an effort not by his machinery but an effort by the citizens. That is his machinery.

 

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CHELSEA DAUZ

22, Miriam Santiago’s Public Affairs & Media Relations Officer 

Nickname for candidate: Miriam

 

Since you started working on your candidate’s campaign, how has how you see her changed? 

I’ve been working for her for more than a year now, and I’ve always seen her as a fighter. She is not afraid to express unpopular opinion and lambaste erring high officials/influential people as long as the law is on her side. She does not give in to popular opinion just because she wants to appear favorable to the public. Even if she knows she’s lagging behind in the commercial surveys, she’s a positive thinker. You’d think she’d withdraw from the presidential race, but the more that the situation got more challenging, the more that I witnessed how persevering and resolved Miriam is. I saw how much she’s willing to genuinely serve the country despite all odds. She’s a fighter until the very end!

What do you think are the three most important issues that young Filipinos face everyday and how does your candidate address these problems?

Public transportation woes, cry for free and accessible education, and demand for employment.

Miriam’s administration will invest in a modern, international airport, an entirely new railway system from Manila to Sorsogon, and a modern, integrated urban transit system in Metro Manila with lines reaching urban communities in Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna. As a boss, she’s hands-on and a perfectionist, so I am sure she will not appoint an incompetent transportation secretary in the first place to ensure we will not have frequent breakdowns of railway trains, among others. 🙂

Miriam’s plans for education include educating the poor by institutionalizing the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program, including a provision that expands its coverage to include beneficiaries aged 15-18 years old to ensure that children who benefitted from the CCT program from zero to 14 years old will finish high school; higher budget for state universities and colleges (SUCs) for tuition subsidy, books, and capital outlay; and creating more infrastructure allowing access to schools and hard-to-reach areas. She said that there should be a P4.1-billion capital outlay for construction of student dormitories, faculty housings, and school buildings. She will bridge the classroom gap, both throughincreased public investment and improved private participation through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Program. The PPP Act will be a Congressional priority under her watch.

According to Miriam, unemployment and underemployment rate will progressively decline to five percent by 2022. Her administration expects massive job creation from increased public spending in infrastructure development, robust manufacturing, and modernized agriculture. The issue of jobs mismatch will also be resolved by harmonizing the technical-vocational education and training framework with the K to 12 environment.

 

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Filipinos, without a doubt, believe that Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago is one of the most brilliant politicians that has served our country. However, MDS’s health is an issue voters are most concerned about. How does your camp assure the Filipinos that Senator Miriam Defensor, once elected, is healthy and capable enough to finish six years in Malacanang?

Whether a president is sick or not is not an assurance of his or her length in office. Anything can happen to a president; there are many factors, like ambush, accidents, etc,. President Magsaysay was not sick but he was not able to finish his term. Nevertheless, he still serves as an inspiration for how a president should act.

National leaders who are cancer survivors are also not rare. In fact, the president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), an organization of throat cancer survivors group, said that cancer is no longer a dreaded disease. It should not be feared as it is now curable under the right conditions, such as early detection and proper medical care. Sen. Miriam just finished her international clinical trial and she’s been reported to appear stronger and better now.

Miriam’s courage and willingness to serve the country despite having cancer should serve as inspiration to the Filipino people. We Filipinos are resilient, and Miriam displays this character perfectly. She could have just stopped this campaign  altogether and instead spend time with her family, that could have been easier, but she still heeded the call of duty because she wants to leave a better Philippines for her grandchildren and your future children.

Whether your candidate wins or loses, what will you remember about this election season? And what would you like to forget?  

There are times that I’d like to give up, but Sen. Santiago’s forward- and positive thinking affected and reminded me to thrive during challenging times. This campaign taught me to be more resourceful, more creative, more patient, and more resolute. It also taught me more about myself. I’m grateful that she treats her staff equally, no matter what their age is.

For either outcome, what would your first social media post be? 

My first social media post would be a photo of me and her with a caption that thanks her for showing me, us, that life becomes more meaningful when you give yourself in service to others.

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