Thoughts: Philippine party system, social media, and celebrity politics

The 2022 Philippine elections is upon us. A few people have already announced their candidacy. While looking at the choices we have, I can’t help but be disappointed. Are these the only options? But also, that the opposition candidates will all divide the votes and we will repeat history in this division.

One of the failures of Philippine politics is not having a proper political party system. Our political parties are a joke and anyone can jump ship anytime for their own convenience. We forget that political parties actually hold ideologies and supposedly those ideologies are what we also vote for. It’s so frustrating that votes can be divided into so many candidates so the fact is, majority doesn’t win. 16 million voted for Duterte, but you know how many didn’t? 23 million. 7 million more DID NOT vote for Duterte and yet he won because those votes were split into 5 top presidential candidates.

Think about the parties. PDP-Laban, what do they stand for? Or the Liberal Party, what is their ideology? I don’t even know? It’s all about personality politics — this kind of politics where it’s about the individual rather than the ideologies they put forward. In other countries it is clear– conservatives/republicans hold conservative values (anti-abortion, anti-immigration, etc) while progressives/democrats/liberals hold progressive values (women’s rights, unions, etc.). In other countries you also have the green parties which push for environmental policies. But in the Philippines? What do these parties even do aside from money support for candidates? How do we even address this? Where do we even start changing the party system? It’s so frustrating seeing how history could repeat itself because of a faulty political party system. Of course that’s not the only problem at hand, but I think it plays a big role in the vote divide and personality politics.

And then we have people voting because of ‘winnability’ of a candidate. Which points back to personality politics and how it’s all about the individual, right? It’s all about who can win based on surveys instead of rallying together and do the work to make the candidate who deserves the position win the elections. That’s the problem. Oh, and of course the belief that social media is the end all and be all of campaigns. It is not.

People tend to think that everyone is online, on Twitter, on Facebook, and that all it takes for a candidate to win the elections is go viral. That’s a wrong assumption. First, not everyone is online. Many people still don’t have access to the Internet, and of the people online, not all are on Twitter/Facebook. Things that go viral are viral to people on social media, not necessarily people off-line. Second, it is wrong to assume that media/social media is the end all and be all of any political campaign. Yes, it helps, but that is only a fraction of the many many factors on why people decide to vote for who they vote for. Any individual decides on things based on many influences in their lives: friends, family, culture, environment, religion, etc. Media scholars always remind us to take a person as a whole, and not as a zombie watching a television or scrolling through tweets and newsfeeds. People have brains, they can think, and they won’t vote for a candidate just because they’ve seen something on TV/social media.

You think Duterte won because he got an army of trolls to post disinformation and propaganda? He won because of the deep seated frustration of people who thought and felt that the Aquino government did not do anything to improve their lives. Did you think Trump won just because they manipulated social media? No, Trump won because again, Americans have been frustrated about their personal lives and wanted something different. Populism is not new, we’ve had populists even before social media. Third, if you want a candidate to win, do the groundwork. Help them win. Selecting someone based on “Winnability” based on surveys is so defeatist. Yes we need Duterte out but if we want Leni to win, we help her win. Talk to people, go on the ground, knock on doors. When AOC ran in NY she was an unknown, but she did the work that needed to be done. She talked to the people who she needed to convince, and she won against all odds.

There’s so much to be done in terms of Philippine politics. he broken political system only puts us in cycle where we vote for the most popular over and over again, regardless of their ideologies and platforms. Something needs to change for sure, but where do we start?

If you want studies on social media and politics and media effects and the history of Philippine politics to understand why we are where we are now, send me an email at and I’ll gladly send you materials.