MANILA, Philippines - It’s the eve of the campaign period for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
At the stroke of midnight, the streets and alleys of Metro Manila will once again take the shape of a 3-dimensional collage, plastered from end-to-end with faces and promises of the nation’s smallest political units.
In Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City, incumbent Barangay Chairman Benedick Banega busies himself with barangay affairs, while in a room nearby, barangay workers and volunteers are busy mounting some 600 tarpaulins on bamboo frames.
“Barangay elections are more expensive now,” Banega said. “During my father’s time, candidates used to just write their names on old sacks. And hardly anyone wanted to run. But now, with more funds and more autonomy given to barangays, it’s become more and more a lucrative profession.”
By Banega’s estimation, his team has spent more than P50,000 on campaign materials alone. Each kagawad (barangay councilor) gets 75 tarpaulin posters, while Banega gets 150 pieces. Each of these cost P24. They have also allotted P45,000 for their pollwatchers on election day.
“Nowadays, you really have to spend to get ahead in the race,” said Banega.
It’s a slightly different picture in Barangay Baseco in Tondo district in Manila.
There are no tarpaulin posters at the headquarters of candidate Domingo “A-1” Ramirez, only used posters made of sacks that some partylist group left lying around in the streets.
Members of his team were seen turning the old posters over so they could paint the names of their candidates on the clean back side. In the corner of one room, volunteers are cutting up some old donated pieces of cardboard and using a rubber stamp to mark them with “Vote A-1 for Brgy. Captain”.
Plastered on the wall are different-sized home-made printouts of the different candidates running for kagawad, with the only thing in common being the face of their candidate for chairman.
“I don’t have any money, so the kagawads have adopted my face on their own campaign posters,” A-1 Ramirez declared proudly. “Poverty is not a hindrance for me.”
By the team’s computation, they have spent just a little more than P10,000, including P1,400 for 2 gallons of paint, P80 for the single rubber stamp, and about P300 for refills of the stamp pad.
Ramirez initially tried to collect P1,000 pesos from each kagawad, but not everyone could come up with the money. Now they’re powered by donations, and by swallowing their pride.
“All the 3 other candidates for chairman here are millionaires. I’m the only one who’s poor. I guess all I can offer is heart,” Ramirez chuckled.
However, Ramirez said that money does matter in any election, big or small. He said he would spend more if he had more.
With the campaign period starting in just a few hours, and with only 10 days in the campaign period, he can only pin his hopes on those in Baseco who can look past the re-used sacks and dirty cardboard giveaways and see promise behind his persistence.