Exploiting their claim to poverty

"Pacquiao and Moreno are guilty of these."


Poverty alleviation is always part of every traditional politician’s platform.  He promises a solution to the poverty problem, but once elected, he reneges on that campaign promise.   

Many traditional politicians focus their campaign on their humble origins as poor folks who were industrious enough to improve their economic status.    

By portraying themselves to the electorate as dirt poor in their youth, then as hardworking individuals early on, to the success story that they are today, these traditional politicians want the masses, who compose the bulk of the voters, to identify with them, and in the end, to vote them to office.

Senator Manny Pacquiao’s political advertisements on television are on point.    

Aside from emphasizing that he is a boxing champion (although he is now a has-been), which has no bearing on one’s competence in public office, Pacquiao’s commercials remind the electorate that Pacquiao was once so impoverished that there were times when he went to sleep on the sidewalk, hungry and dejected.

When asked about his qualifications for seeking the presidency, Pacquiao replies, “Bakit, naranasan mo na bang magutom?”  (“Why, have you ever experienced hunger?”)  

Pacquiao’s hypothesis is that if a public official knows how it is to be hungry once, then he will know how to address the problem of poverty in the country.  HIs problem, however, is in his populist attitude.  He believes that by constantly donating food to the impoverished, the poverty problem is solved -- period.

At best, Pacquiao’s idea is a temporary remedy.  His strategy will only create a mendicant society in lieu of responsible citizenship.  Pacquiao’s campaign pledges are designed only to get votes in the coming elections, and not for seriously addressing social woes beyond the electoral horizon.

While Pacquiao likes to remind the voters that he was once poor and hungry, he is suspiciously quiet about the extent of his wealth, accumulated mainly through his prize money from boxing matches, advertising endorsements, and his undeserved salaries and allowances as an absentee congressman and senator.  

Today, the once-poor Pacquiao owns plenty of very valuable real estate, including a luxurious mansion on the billionaires’ row that is Forbes Park in Makati.  He owns numerous luxury vehicles, and his family lives an ostentatious lifestyle.  The guy continues to rake in money from his advertising endorsements, and has big time business investments.

All that luxury actually conveys the message that a poor person who eventually becomes very wealthy, will inevitably become ostentatious.

In the political community, there is a saying in Tagalog that “(A)ng matagal nang gutom, kapag nasa kapangyarihan at kumakain na ay di basta-bastang aahon.”   (“A person who has been hungry for so long, once in power, his banquet will be prolonged.”)

Another presidential candidate, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, provides a similar example.

For the past two months, Moreno’s early campaign commercials have been broadcast daily in the major television networks.  His self-praising commercials have one common message --  Moreno was once a poor boy from the slums who ate left-over restaurant food, but because he persisted in finishing his studies and got employed after that, he has achieved what seemed like the impossible.

The “poor boy” strategy employed by Pacquiao is apparent in Moreno’s commercials; the only difference is that each of Moreno’s commercials shows him wearing eyeglasses and a college graduation toga, apparently to suggest that he is a scholar.

As I mentioned in a last week’s essay, Moreno has been spending millions on his campaign advertisements, which are aired throughout the day on the major television networks.  The production and broadcast costs of those commercials are gigantic.  

Moreno has been Manila mayor for only two and a half years.  HIs salary for that period is not enough to pay for those commercials. He lost in the 2016 senatorial elections.  Where then does he get all those millions to pay for those advertisements?  How does Moreno plan to recover those expenses?  If some vested interest groups are financing him, how will Moreno return their favors once he becomes President?

The mayor’s critics say that there are complaints from officials at Moreno’s Manila City Hall regarding ghost employees and unliquidated expenses.  

Moreno also has a large house in the upscale section of Alabang in Muntinlupa City.  It looks like he isn’t the poor boy he likes to portray himself to be.

Pacquiao and Moreno remind me of ex-President Diosdado Macapagal, who liked to be called “the poor boy from Lubao” (in Pampanga).  Macapagal lived in Forbes Park after his presidency.   

Please don’t get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong about starting poor and ending up successful.  I am, however, disgusted by politicians who want to project the image that they are from humble beginnings and that they continue to live humble, simple lives, when the truth is otherwise.

Topics: Louis "Barok" Biraogo , poverty , Senator Manny Pacquiao , Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso
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