Celebs in the political universe


Robert Requintina

Expect some star power as some movie and television personalities join the race in the national elections 2022.

These celebrities are vying for positions ranging from congressman to mayoral, senatorial and gubernatorial posts, to party-list representatives.

It's not a mystery why stars sometimes look in the mirror and see future senators and even presidents looking back.

Name recognition is no small thing in an election. Some candidates spend a fortune for name recognition, and stars don't have to.

Any star running for office is bound to draw more attention. They can count on media coverage and big crowds turning out to see them during campaign.

In a country that values entertainers more than politicians, it is not enough that celebrities-turned-aspiring politicians are popular. It helps that these stars show knowledge and credible positions on issues of the day.

"What celebrities often lack is credibility. Even Ronald Reagan had to fight for credibility," according to William Schneider, who teaches public policy at George Mason University.

Rep. Alfred Vargas of Quezon City says he continually expands his knowledge on significant issues. Last July 25, Vargas finished his Master of Public Administration from the National College of Public Administration and Governance of the University of the Philippines.

"Courses like urban governance, urban resilience, disaster risk reduction, and equality. You should know all these things. I also took classes in finance," adds Vargas, in an interview recently.

Vargas says: “I’m always happy every time I hear of actors or people from the world of showbiz who want to do public service. For me, as long as you’re Filipino and you want to serve, that’s your right. You have every right. But it has to be 100 percent. 99 percent sure will not cut it out. You must be 100-percent sure that you really want it. Otherwise, it’s going to be difficult. Dedication and commitment have to be there."

Former Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista has some advice to fellow actors eyeing politics.

"The entertainment industry teaches you to prepare. Pre-prod, planning, timing until you give your final product to your client which is the people where they will be entertained, That's what I've learned from the entertainment industry. It's not enough that you are popular. We need to prepare. It hurts when people say you've won because you are a movie star. That's offensive. To avoid that kind of opinion, from the beginning, let's not also offend them by being prepared," says Herbert.

In the UK, it is rare to find career politicians who have risen from humble beginnings. Just like in the Philippines, stories of "humble beginnings" are prevalent in the US, not only in entertainment but also in politics.

“In the US there are lots of rags-to-riches stories in the political system and that gives the person more clout against their wealthier opponents,” says Nancy W Gleason, associate professor of the practice of political science at NYU Abu Dhabi, in an interview for thenationalnews.com.

Gleason adds: “Coming from a poorer background is important; the public wants to see a reflection of themselves in office. Because many artists can claim to have come from ‘the streets’, there is authenticity in that sort of story which resonates with voters and the public. Plus, celebrities can get their rags-to-riches tale out there more easily than aspiring politicians, because their story has already been in magazines and online by the time they decide to transition into politics.” Leyte 4th District Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, wife of Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez, says politics made her a better person.

"I used to be this, yes, girl who lived to please everyone. Politics has strengthened my character to be my own person," says Torres.

Presidential aspirant Manila Mayor Isko Moreno is proud of his roots in show business.

"I have nothing to hide. My life is an open book. I am not ashamed of this. I’m happy I survived showbiz. In portraying characters, there are challenging scenes, and I’m happy when I give justice to a particular scene. And sometimes it requires extra ability and guts to do it," comments Moreno.

There's no business like show business. And there's no people like show people, even in politics.

(The author is the Entertainment Editor of Manila Bulletin.)