MANILA – “Wala bang damit? Para remembrance sana, sir," a vendor asked journalist Jiggy Manicad as he made the rounds during a campaign stop in Guagua, Pampanga on a sweltering Sunday morning.
Manicad, running under administration-backed Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), was then only giving away cards bearing his name. He had run out of shirts, he told the vendor.
At that point, one of his staff members asked a campaign volunteer to take off his Manicad shirt and give it to the woman.
Manicad is waging his first political bid on limited resources, banking on his more than two decades of experience as a broadcast journalist to convince the people to bet on him in the May 13 polls.
In all of his campaign sorties with HNP, led by the President's daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Manicad would not fail to mention how he has no single tarpaulin posted around the venue, unlike former police and corrections chief Ronald dela Rosa or Maguindanao Rep. Dong Mangudadatu.
He would then call on stage his aide carrying a campaign poster, which he refers to as his “walking tarpaulin.”
“We all know that politics is really all about resources. It’s not enough that you know how to write, how to read, to battle it out in the world of politics,” Manicad told ABS-CBN News.
Manicad said personal funds as well as contributions from friends and family keep his campaign afloat. His wife, Marnie, runs a production outfit.
“We try to raise funds. Of course, our target is to have a TV commercial. All of these will be declared in my SOCE (Statement of Contributions and Expenses),” he said.
He said he makes up for his lack of campaign resources with his extensive knowledge of the ills of society in presenting himself as a viable option for voters.
Starting his career doing research on the difficulties of obtaining proper education among the Mangyans in Mindoro for the now-defunct ABS-CBN show “Magandang Gabi Bayan,” and later on becoming a multi-awarded journalist for GMA Network, Manicad said he has toured the Philippines long enough to know what needs to be done to fix its woes.
One of Manicad’s advocacies is to ensure food security among the country’s poorest.
“I’ve seen the issues affecting the people directly. And every time I return to the places I have visited, I would see that the lives of the people there have not changed. It’s really the policies that are affecting their lives,” Manicad said.
Manicad, who produced stories about the plight of drug mules, human trafficking, and the tragedy brought about by typhoon Yolanda, said the power of a journalist comes from his ability to give a platform to those who have less in life.
"In a way, you help them create awareness about their condition,” he said.
"For me, journalism is not about fame, fortune or glory. It’s really about public service."
JIGGY: I AM NOT LOREN, NOLI
It's not the first time that a Philippine journalist is venturing into the world of politics.
While he has the backing of the popular Davao City mayor, Manicad admitted he has not yet reached the popularity of Sen. Loren Legarda and former Vice President Noli De Castro, both of whom translated successful broadcasting careers to a career in politics.
“Their popularity compared to my popularity was immense,” Manicad said.
Adding to Manicad’s predicament is the line-up of senatorial bets packed with reelectionists and old names in Philippine politics. According to Pulse Asia surveys, voter-support for Manicad has gone up by only 3-percentage points from January to March 2019, although his awareness among voters has increased from 52% in January to 69% in March 2019.
Thus, the traditional pressing of the flesh remains a key component of Manicad’s campaign.
“That’s why my strategy is to reach out to communities, reach out to the people directly… If there’s a chance for me to increase awareness [among voters], we do that,” he said.
“It’s really a challenge. I do not belong to a political family.”
Like Legarda and De Castro, Manicad opted to shoot straight for a Senate seat, saying it’s not about building a political career but being able to present himself as someone who could contribute to policy-making at the national level.
“I don’t see politics as a corporate set-up where you have a ladder and should start at the bottom as a barangay chairman,” he said.
Should Manicad fail to capture enough votes to land a Senate seat, he said he would consider other career options because his objectivity as a journalist would be questioned if he opts to return to the media industry.
RUNNING UNDER DUTERTE
For University of the Philippines political science professor Aries Arugay, Manicad could not have chosen a worse time to run for the Senate.
His decision to run with the backing of Sara Duterte, daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte, puts him in a difficult situation, as the administration has been accused of attacking and intimidating the country’s press, once regarded as one of the freest in the region, Arugay added.
“The Duterte government is quite clear regarding its intolerance with critical members of the press. It is also for this reason that Manicad does not get the support of media in his campaign,” Arugay told ABS-CBN News.
“His role as an agent of the ‘fourth estate’ also becomes questionable given his unwavering support for the administration.”
Several times during the campaign season, Manicad has had to defend the government’s actions towards the press.
He was earlier slammed for saying that libel should not be decriminalized, a position he would later said he “might reconsider.”
Despite all the criticisms, Manicad said he could offer himself to voters with nary a blemish as a long-time journalist, noting he has refused cash offers from moneyed politicians many times.
“What I can guarantee is I’m not going to steal since I’ve seen the impact of stealing in government, especially among the poorest of the poor,” he said.
Asked about his association with the Dutertes, Manicad said what matters most for him as a journalist is “we are on the side of the truth.”
“We are impartial, apolitical, objective, fair, truthful in our reporting,” he said.
“Even if there are ten President Dutertes, why should we fear?”