VICE Votes

All The Weird Things That Happened in the Run-up to the Philippine Midterm Elections

Topless senators, fake degrees, and all the things that aren't supposed to be normal... but are.

by Lex Celera
08 May 2019, 10:11am

Screenshot from YouTube

It’s hard to write about the crazy and outlandish things that have happened in the months leading to the elections because, well, things have always been this surreal. In the past years, we've seen boxers and movie stars elected to office, Winnie the Pooh mascots on the campaign trail, and even a Mayor declared winner after a coin toss. Indeed, reality is often stranger than fiction in Philippine politics.

And here we are again, as candidates prepare for the 2019 midterm elections on May 13. The most coveted spots in the upcoming polls are 12 senatorial seats, which will make up half of the Senate. Will the political opposition find a foothold in the government? Or will Duterte’s political allies find their way in?

While we want to know where candidates stand on issues close to us, here’s what they let us know too: the lack of tattoos on their back and that they lied about their educational background, among others.

Here are some of the crazy things candidates do to win in the Philippines:

Fake credentials

Imee Marcos, senatorial aspirant and daughter of former dictator and kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos, claims she attended and graduated from Princeton University. After a fact-check however, this was proven to be false. While Marcos did attend the university for some terms, she did not graduate. “Our records do not show that Ms Marcos was awarded a degree,” said Princeton deputy university spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss in an email to Rappler.

Despite Princeton's denial, senatorial candidate Imee Marcos still claims graduating from the University on her Facebook page. Screenshot from Imee Marcos Facebook page

In fact, an article in the September 11, 1973 issue of The Princetonian reported that the Asian-American Students Association (AASA) had protested Marcos' admission to Princeton, fearing for the safety of some of the students that were critical of her father’s government.

Despite Princeton’s denial, the younger Marcos continues to insist she graduated from the University.

Posters! Posters everywhere!

You know it’s election season in the Philippines when public space gets eaten up by advertisements of politicians. It's a sad common occurrence during Philippine elections that election posters riddle the streets, the posts, and even the trees. While the Commission on Elections are trying to do their part in taking down illegal campaign materials, election posters can be found in nooks and crannies almost everwhere, where they will remain long after the elections.

Election music tapping ‘Momoland,’ budots

In all levels of government, any candidate worth his salt (or his money) has an election jingle. Aside from printers and shirt makers, recording studios most likely earn a lot of business in the months leading to the elections.

Not all the songs are original, though. Parodies like this copy of K-pop group MOMOLAND’s “BOOM BOOM” exist in an attempt to capitalize on the pop culture value of the songs they copy and are blared out of branding-heavy vans along the streets. Some have the money to actually work with the artists and re-release their songs to become their election jingles, like former presidential aide and senatorial aspirant Bong Go’s campaign ad featuring pop rap group Ex Battalion.

Budots, the Philippines’ take on hard-hitting catchy dance music, isn’t spared. Bong Revilla airs a campaign ad using budots alongside the matching dance, weird camera angles, and janky animated characters, probably in an attempt to get the youth vote. It’s a mess we can’t stop looking at.

Getting topless

After being accused by a viral YouTube video detailing his involvement with a drug syndicate via the tattoo on his back, presidential assistant and aspiring senatorial candidate Bong Go has taken his shirt off more than once during press conferences.

Florin Hilbay, a senatorial candidate running for the opposition, also took his shirt off in relation to Bong Go’s allegations.

Anyone else want to see their possible future senators topless? Anyone?

Accused Plunderers Running for Senate

Yes, we have former senators gunning for reelection while they’re facing plunder charges. And we’re not surprised. Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. are facing plunder charges in connection with a 10 billion peso ($500 million) pork barrel scam. 94-year-old Juan Ponce Enrile (yes, almost 90 years old and still running for senator!) and Jinggoy Estrada are currently out on bail for plunder charges, while Revilla was in detention for 4 years and was recently acquitted (even if his chief-of-staff was convicted... but that’s a story for another day). In a Pulse Asia survey last April 30, Revilla and Estrada are in the top 12 and set to get re-elected, while Enrile ranks 16th.

In a statement after his acquittal, Revilla says that convicted plunderers should face the death penalty. “If necessary, impose the death penalty on those who commit plunder and steal from the national coffers so that it would stop.” He also said that “false accusers” must also be charged and jailed. We'll leave it at that.

campaign strategies
philippine elections
bong go
bong revilla