Updated Apr 9, 2019, 4:24:59 PM
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — People say, "there's no business like show business." The same could also hold true in Philippine politics.
The country's election season won't be complete without the presence of local celebrities endorsing certain candidates or as candidates themselves running for local or national posts.
Some say celebrities enjoy undue advantage when they join the political fray. This is because of the high recall and awareness they enjoy prior to their candidacy as a result of being seen regularly in noontime programs, teleseryes, movies, commercials or celebrity events.
In the upcoming midterm elections, at least 30 TV personalities are joining the race. They are vying for positions ranging from senator to congressman, mayoral and gubernatorial posts, to party-list representatives.
'Star Power:' Good or bad in PH politics?
The mix of showbiz and politics does not guarantee a sure victory for any candidate. Although familiarity and recall are an advantage, UP Political Analyst Jean Franco believes that other factors come into play before celebrities actually get enough votes to elected.
"There have been celebrity politicians who lost and there have been celebrity politicians who won elections. The problem is these candidates have to be humble enough that they don't know enough. So these celebrity politicians have to get good people because they have to work harder to prove themselves," Franco explained.
Critics doubt celebrities in the political arena bring any significant good to the country. But the political analyst said there have been celebrity politicians instrumental in bringing positive change to their constituents' situations.
Franco added one impression is that celebrities are "wallflower candidates" and are unable to contribute much to public discourse.
"The disadvantage is the stigma that is attached to celebrity politicians is that they don't know enough and that they are going to be members of committees on silence," he said.
Franco also said while celebrities enjoy recall and while public speaking is like second skin to them, there are times when a celebrity candidate's "bloopers" are highlighted, creating a damper to the celebrity's chances of being voted.
"It's quite natural for them because essentially when you're in politics you also perform in front of audience not only during the campaign season but also when they're occupying political positions as they take on issues," Franco explained.
Celebrities in the political limelight
Former Senators Bong Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada are both seeking a Senate comeback after being detained and involved in the multi-billion pork barrel scam. The two actors-turned-lawmakers repeatedly told the public they are innocent and they did not do anything wrong in the multi-billion scandal. Yet, according to the latest Pulse Asia Survey, Revilla and Estrada would make it to the senators' Magic 12 circle if the midterm elections were held today.
Survey frontrunner and Ang Probinsyano star Lito Lapid is also seeking a Senate seat. Lapid served as a senator in 2004 and was re-elected in 2010. The action star had filed 239 bills in the 15th Congress. His landmark law, the "Lapid Law" or the Legal Assistance Act of 2008, gives free legal assistance to poor Filipinos.
Star for all Seasons Vilma Santos-Recto served as Lipa, Batangas Mayor and later on won as the province's Governor. Yet being the 5th District Representative of Batangas is totally a new role for Ate Vi.
Santos-Recto said education remains to be her priority as lawmaker. She is one of the authors of the Anti-Discrimination Bill or SOGIE Equality Bill, the Expanded Maternity Leave bill and the Expanded Senior Citizen Bill.
The Star for All Seasons also gained attention when she voted "no" against the reimposition of the Death Penalty in 2017. Santos-Recto lost her committee chairmanships after her controversial vote.
"If you believe na talagang ito ang paniniwala mo at sa tingin mo, ito ang dapat mong gawin, paninindigan iyon. But that doesn't mean I'm fighting the government. Hindi ako nandito para kalabanin ang gobyerno," Santos-Recto explained in an interview with CNN Philippines.
[Translation: If you believe in this and you think this is what you're supposed to do, that is principle. But that doesn't I'm fighting the government. I'm not here to fight government.]
From one of the most sought-after actors and leading men during his time, Alfred Vargas turned his back from show business to run as Quezon City Councilor in 2010. He lost on his first try, but he won in 2013 as Congressman. He was unopposed in the 2016 national elections.
Vargas admits that the shift from showbiz to politics was not easy.
"Kasi madali naman buhay ng artista eh -- I mean, compared dito, kasi napakadali. Aralin mo lang script mo, mag-workshop ka, mag-perform ka okay ka na. Pero dito everyday talaga kailangan mo tumulong to solve the problems of the people," he said.
[Translation: Because the life of an actor is easy, I mean compared to this since it's easier. You study your script, you do a workshop, you perform, and you're good. But here, you have to ensure you help solve the problems of the people every day.]
As House Vice Chairman for Appropriations and one of the main authors of landmark laws like the one creating a Cancer Control Program in the country, Vargas says he needs to continually expand his knowledge on important political courses in order to keep up.
"Courses like urban governance, urban resilience, disaster risk reduction tapos equality -- dapat alam mo lahat 'yan [You should know all these things.] I also took classes in finance kasi part ako ng [since I am part of] appropriations committee," Vargas added.
Stars will not always shine bright for our favorite actors or actresses deciding to enter the challenging world of politics, but their performance as elected officials will be determined not through blockbuster success or awards but how they were able to improve the lives of their constituents and the people they choose to serve.