MANILA–Media giant ABS-CBN will acquire the Commission on Elections as part of the Aquino administration’s privatization program, a highly placed source in the network revealed during an exclusive interview with Outtakes.
The source, however, emphatically denied that the deal has anything to do with stopping ABS-CBN star Kris Aquino from leaving show business again.
Turning over the Comelec to the private sector is in line with the administration’s plans to privatize Philippine General Hospital and other public services. The source said the deal “is in the spirit of Presidential Proclamation No. 50, which prescribes privatization to improve efficiency and provide better quality service, among other things.”
When the government couldn’t pay its $28 billion foreign debt in 1983, the World Bank and IMF conditioned new loans on the privatization of government enterprises. President Corazon Aquino issued Proclamation No. 50, and privatization proceeded apace under President Fidel Ramos, converting power and other utilities.
But the Comelec deal is the first to involve a political institution.
“It’s all about efficiency, what with the Comelec under criticism for slowness, defective computerization and so on,” the source said.
The ABS-CBN takeover of Comelec is just “a logical step now that elections and entertainment are indistinguishable,” he explained. “So why not abandon all pretense and just formally combine the two–and let professionals run things for improved efficiency and better quality service?”
A thin line
Political observers have long noted the thin line between politics and show business. Candidates sing and dance for audiences in political rallies and seek endorsements from stars.
Kris Aquino’s well-publicized domestic spat, while showbiz material, was a political embarrassment for her brother, the President.
Senatorial candidate Chiz Escudero’s sugary love affair with Heart Evangelista and his ugly feud with her parents—all televised–run like trailers for “Romeo and Juliet.” The squabbling Ejercito/Estrada brothers are like Michael and Fredo Corleone in “Godfather II.”
According to UP political science Professor K.C. Nacabayad, the adage “Politics is show business for ugly people” isn’t true in the Philippines at all, where screen idols and other beautiful people have always successfully run for office. “It’s called Philippine exceptionalism,” he added.
The highly placed ABS-CBN source concurred, saying the voting public “eats all that showbiz stuff up” while ignoring the competing platforms or policies of the candidates.
So, under the privatization agreement, the network’s new Comelec Division will produce high quality voter-education programs, using showbiz as a medium of mass communication. Already in development ever since the network and the administration signed an MOU are the following pilots:
“Tiangco Unchained” shows UNA campaign chief Toby Tiangco in action, taking no prisoners, scorching the earth, mercilessly attacking and counterattacking his Liberal Party enemies. And he does it with not a hair out of place.
“Grey’s Lobotomy” a medical drama set in a psychiatric ward where certain senatorial candidates are treated for saying inexplicably crazy things like Filipino nurses need not be good because they are content in being “caregivers” or room nurses abroad.
“Breakpast” is a remake of candidate Bam Aquino’s old morning talk show but this time showcasing his talent as an amateur magician. Houdini-like, he will try to break free from a seemingly inescapable association with the corrupt Gloria Arroyo administration.
“Real Senators of Quezon City” is a reality show featuring a down-and-dirty, all-claws-bared catfight between Senator Miriam Santiago vs. her colleagues Juan Ponce Enrile and Ping Lacson. Warning: involves graphic depictions of political skulduggery. Parental discretion is advised.
Inspired by successful American dance shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars,” ABS-CBN is producing “So You Think You Can Legislate.” It tests the nimbleness of political candidates. Sure, candidates can do Gangnam-style in their rallies, but do they realize that it takes two to tango? Can they do the arm twist, the flip-flop, Cha-Cha and walk-the-talk? Let’s see.
“The Unbearable Lightness of Binay” is a moody telenovela about the angst of some ordinary voters who are attracted to senatorial candidate Nancy Binay because of her parentage–but are bothered by her empty resume.
“Fathers Know Best” is a comedy series about a rectory of zany priests who give sex advice to impoverished parishioners. The bishop makes them lead the Church’s campaign against candidates who supported the Reproductive Health Law, because they’re real experts on the subject. Not only do they know the Bible, but they’ve also known someone biblically. Hilarity ensues.
And how about the Comelec’s computerization problems? “Oh, that? We’ll ask a call center for expert advice,” said the source, a senior executive in the network’s custodial department.