Stereotyping the President

This is what the President’s Porsche has been able to do. Case in point is Bobby Tiglao’s column which masterfully scans the literature surrounding men and their flashy cars. The problem is that Tiglao cannot seem to make up his mind on which stereotype to fit P-Noy under.

On the one hand he purports this to be another one of “the infamous instances of the extravagance of our ruling class that mock the poverty of many Filipinos”; on the other hand, he describes it as a form of conspicuous consumption attributable to the social climbing class. He is obviously lobbing different analogies at the current occupant of Malacanang, hoping that one of them will stick (in the consciousness of Filipinos).

If that was not enough, Tiglao digs up the literature on the role of cars in the mating ritual in order to paint the president as an unabashed bachelor using ostentatious displays of wealth as a way of signaling to possible mates his capacity to provide for them.

Normally this analogy would not apply to men his age, but because the president is a bachelor, Tiglao scores the potential security risks attendant to his lifestyle. This is the real crux of the problem for him as he states that (f)or the sake of the Republic’s stability, the President should get married very soon, never mind if his sisters approve of his lady or not. Our bachelor President just isn’t getting any. And this has become a clear and present danger.

So there you have it. On the one hand the president is supposed to be a member of the ruling elite callous and decadent in the face of mass poverty and suffering, on the other he is an up and coming social climber eager to fit in with the big boys. On the one hand he is a suitor seeking to embellish his biological deficiencies and aging features with material ornaments, on the other, he is a swanky bachelor living it up with a different woman every night.

One cannot fault Mr Tiglao for his grasp of the literature surrounding this issue. One would hope however that next time, he uses a more consistent line of attack since these ones are laden with inherent contradictions. That is the difficulty with using different stereotypes to paint your opponent a certain way. It is very hard in the end to prove that the stereotype you are using really fits the person or not.

In the case of P-Noy, none of them fits his character completely. My own take on the issue is this: had he purchased a luxury vehicle of the same amount say a four door Mercedez Benz E class, people would hardly take notice. The fact that he chose a sport’s car instead with all the cultural significance attached to it, opened him up to different forms of criticism. These criticisms rightly or wrongly are being aimed at him with the hope of diminishing the people’s assessment of his judgement.

A president’s public image is something he has to protect if he wishes to retain favor with his electorate. It just so happens that the people are riding the crest of optimism regarding their future prospects under this president. The social cauldron is not exactly brewing or steaming at this point. Luckily for the president, although many stereotypes are available, none of them seem to matter…yet.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy (www.thecusponline.org) and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • GabbyD

    i agree with UPn — esp with the president. how about mandatory reporting? for major purchases and changes in assets?

    • Statements of assets and liabilities is mandatory. Always has been.

      • GabbyD

        there is a time and place for SALn to be prepared.

        for this to work, there has to be a group that will have to request the SALn. its extra work. not to mention the time lag– after a few months, people will forget about it.

        my proposal is merely to use the press sec to release info on the major purchases, daily activities of the president – unless these activities need 2 be a secret coz of national security.

        no need to reveal private details of other people (say the name of his date).

        • UP nn grad

          President-Pilipinas — on receiving a gift or a huge discount — that is information where Pilipinas can not afford 8-months delay before details are available. If it was Danding Cojuangco or one of the San Miguel executives known to be fond of cars who gave a huge discount on a Porsche or a Ford Expedition, that is one story. If it were FRAPORT who gave a huge discount, that is another story.

          Same-oh same-oh had this been about an asset-acquisition by President Gloria Arroyo or if it had been a gift of case of $250-a-bottle wine for Erap or Rolex watch for General-this Chief-Purchasing-Agent-Philippine Army or Philippine Navy.

          • Cocoy

            SALN is the law. If an official of the government breaks it, shouldn’t there be justification to file a case against that?

            If there was PR value in letting the President’s purchase publicly know, that’s a strategic and tactical decision of the Palace comm group. No law is needed because they can easily disclose it. But there isn’t any public clamor for such a disclosure. People are shrugging it of as “eh?” And they move on.

            As Doy pointed out in his critic of Tiglao’s op-ed, it is merely those who are opposed to the admin that’s raising hell out it, and not doing a good job. Public disclosure of a purchase like this is more for pundits’ benefit. All it does is tarnish names, and as we saw in Arroyo’s regime it hasn’t brought her to jail, just out of office, and so did most of her men.

            What’s the point in indulging in it? The interest of people seem to be more to erode the president’s image, and less about justice, or ensuring that future administrations don’t cross a line we don’t want them to cross.

            Such a move doesn’t forestall say the vice president crossing the line. Or some Senator.

            A SALN investigation could be a subject of an investigative journalist. That’s a lot of numbers to crunch, and a lot of things to prove. Shouldn’t the evidence be so great that it stacks up in court so that we prevent future witch hunts as well?

            Think long term.

            If there would be any law that should be made than it ought to be a Freedom of Information Act. FOI would be the easiest solution. SALN is a public document, and in previous governments acquiring it was very difficult. So far, FOI is still a pipe dream.

            If there is a case against PNoy with his porsche, it should stack up when the next SALN comes out, and there should be hell to pay. The question is— who is smart enough to investigate and process that much information that doesn’t lead to a witch hunt, but real justice?

          • GabbyD

            oo nga cocoy. problema, once a year lang ang saln. sana may magbabantay. but that isnt always the case.

            yes, information is disclosed for the benefit of the political opposition. thats the same logic why Saln is disclosed too! there’s no surprise there.

            its not about indulging. in fact, alot of this wasnt a big deal due to the public disclosure of the price of the vehicle, and how it was paid. i credit pnoy for being open about how he purchased the vehicle.

            all i’m saying — in the future, if a purchase or asset change happens, he doesnt have to tell people about it himself. just course it thru the spokesman, release a copy of the receipt and disclose the method of purchase via the spokesman.

            more info released — and released TIMELY — the better for his transparency program.

            moreover, if he does it via the pres sec/spokesman, it turns this process into something formal. instead of him having to do it himself via interview.

            its the same for the US president. the Press Sec goes thru what the president will do for the day, his decisions, what his family is doing (bound by public interest and security concerns, that is)

  • UP nn grad

    And speaking of stereotyping… Manuel Buencamino is among a few others who maintain this stereotype of Pilipinas poor — the poor, they are meek followers, have no convictions of their own, easily manipulated. [This is one of the arguments against Constitutional convention — that the poor will elect the-same-type-of-leaders as keep showing up in Congress, in Malacanang, in provincial and city governments.]

    What if??? So what do you think happens when Pilipinas poor breaks from this stereotype? Will the poor do mass demonstration as happening now in Tunisia? Who are the top four groups that Pilipinas poor would demonstrate against?

    • The poor are not meek followers. There have been several studies conducted by reputable institutions like the Ateneo that say the poor do think.

      But that’s not the problem. It never was.

      How can the poor make good choices when there is a shallow bench in our politics? There are no political parties to speak of— except in paper.

      The poor— and /everyone/ else I might add, will have to pick from the same brand names, whether we switch from a parliament or elsewhere. /That’s/ what’s been missing from the political discourse. That’s what people who are for Charter Change are missing. That’s why it’ll still be the same old thing, because you just made a “cosmetic” change, but the fundamentals remain.

      Gets?

      So really, how can anyone make a proper choice, when there are limited choices, and the limited choices don’t exactly inspire?

      These political party reforms can’t come from anyone else except the politicians themselves, who are members of these parties.

      • UP nn grad

        Of course, you already know that you are wrong. The Constitutional Convention does not limit Pinoys-in-Pilipinas to select only from politicians. Fr Bernas, Manuel B, Conrado deQuiros, Erwin and Mon Tulfo, former justice Puno or former justice Isagani Cruz, MLQ3, Ellen Tordesillas, Carmen Pedrosa and a number of the soldiers amnesty-ed by PresiNoynoy are available choices.
        Unless they have the quitter-streak in them and throw in the towel early and in the same breath moan and groan about a stacked deck.

        • UP nn grad

          And surely, Noynoy has been told already (because he did not do a surge-the-gates at all) that he can not do a Cory where he/Noynoy gets to appoint a commission to create a new constitution.

    • manuelbuencamino

      Upnn

      Don’t stereotype me. The poor also elected Noynoy Aquino and rejected your candidate.

  • UP nn grad

    For Le Cirque, government regulations would require GMA to provide receipts if she (or one of the government officials in the entourage) charged the food/wine to Pilipinas (like DFA Secretary Romulo’s wife does… charging food, groceries, to Pilipinas [as reported by Ellen Tordesillas]).

    Noynoy purchase of a Porsche, reporting may not be required. Just like high-value gifts to generals and GOCC-heads are not required.

    I think a law should be implemented — mandatory reporting when a high government official comes into possession of an asset of one-million-pesos or more in value, so Pilipinas knows where the asset comes from.

    • There is a mandatory reporting of a government official’s assets. It is called the statements of assets and liabilities.

  • manuelbuencamino

    right you are Doy, Don’t you find it curious that Tiglao went all the way to Quirino’s arinola but forgot to mention Le Cirque?

    Also I read a bunch of columns, blogs, and blog comments on the Porsche and it’s nothing but a circus of the politically correct and political correctness is something I would put on the same level as false piety.

  • Cocoy

    Exactly, Doy.