Of wooden puppets, talking heads, and presidential candidates

talking heads abs cbn

Talking Heads [Photo source: ABS CBN]

One of my more enjoyable acquaintance-ships here on line is with a young man who blogs and comments under the title “brianitus“. For some reason our mutual disdain for convention and like for noodles puts us on the same wave length, bridging many decades of age-gap.

His off-the-wall remarks cause my brain to expand and funny bone to go conniption on me. I was in that expansive mood when I mentioned to him that I would follow up on my blog about Kris Aquino to deal with “Korina”.

Well, at that point, my brain did an image association that bounced from Korina as one of three talking heads on the ABS-CBN news program called “TV Patrol” to her husband, Mar Roxas, and it was like

“that’s it!”

That’s the problem I have with Mar Roxas.

He always seems like he is a wooden puppet, staging photos or visits to dole out relief money. And he is a talking head, speaking short wisdoms that fit nicely into a paper – without saying much original. When he gets out of the limelight, he seems to have a temper problem, unloading on golf club workers or police who clean up crime scenes before he can get there.

mar roxas rappler

[Source; Rappler]

So I feel like I don’t really KNOW the guy.

Judging from the popular reaction of most people to Mar Roxas, a lot of others may feel the same way. I know the standard line is that he is from the elite side of town and the rest of us are just golf club workers.

He strives mightily . . . and somewhat artificially, it seems to me . . . to prove that he is just an ordinary guy. Well, he isn’t. And Korina and the other ABS-CBN talking heads are not news men. They are pretty boys, stuffed shirts, pompous practitioners shouting “TV Patrol” at the end of the program as if it were the most dramatic thing we could imagine seeing. It’s not. It’s usually blood and guts or promotion of ABS-CBN drama programs as news. You know, PROSTITUTION.

Perhaps it would be good for Mar Roxas to get a job like that – as a newsman, not in prostitution – and avoid the presidency. If he will crack because the golf club won’t allow a non-registered member to play, what’s he going to do when Chinese marines land on Palawan? Or when Mindanao Muslims toss the Bangsamoro agreement as worthless? Or when the Manila real estate boom goes bust and suddenly there are NO cars on the streets of the city, and people are jumping from their high rise condos because they owe more on the loan than their 39 square meters of space is now worth? He’s going to run around and scream at the peons?

mar roxas rice raid manila standard

[Source: Manila Standard]

Now, again, I could be wrong. I could be wrong. Maybe my reading is completely off base and shaded by a press that is obsessed with finding culprits. Mr. Roxas is a sitting duck, a convenient target for a somewhat sadistic, sensationalist media.

If so, then I’d suggest that Mr. Roxas and his backers work hard not to posture him as a talking head. Let us get to know the real man. Let Kris Aquino do a REAL interview with him, blunt as hell, and not some wooden puppet puff piece. Put him on stage and let him ad lib about substance, as if he were chairing a cabinet meeting. Let CNN’s Christiane Amanpour grill him. Or better yet, Anderson Cooper. Let Mr. Roxas give a pre-SONA as to what his presidency will be like . . . with passion, but hopefully not anger.

I’m reminded of the movie “The Truman Show” in which the main character, played brilliantly by Jim Carrey, lives a reality show life, all staged, without knowing it. That’s what Mr. Roxas seems to be pulling with all of us right now.


Being gamed . . . [The Truman Show]

Unfortunately, I don’t want to be played as a puppet. And I don’t want a staged President. I don’t want a talking head for a leader.

I want a real man or real woman.

One who doesn’t need to preen or posture, one we can trust to be calm under fire, one who will speak frankly from the heart, one who does not go frazzled under the critical press spotlight.

If Mr. Roxas can’t DO that, or BE that, don’t bother with running.

He’ll lose, and lose big.

Filipinos don’t like to be gamed.

And the media really, really don’t like to be gamed.

That’s THEIR turf.


34 Responses to “Of wooden puppets, talking heads, and presidential candidates”
  1. manuel buencamino says:

    He has no charisma. Plus a lot of people both high and low born have trouble empathizing with him. And I’m not saying he does not empathize with people, maybe he does but unfortunately people it does not show. I don’t think he poses for his photos, I think they are candid but again unfortunately they look posed. So that’s the problem with Mar. He’s going to need a damn good image makeover real quick to change public perception of him. We will see if he can find someone good enough for the task.

    • Joe America says:

      The DILG was an opportunity to be seen, but has not worked out. Yet he has dealt with some meaty issues, like Zamboanga and Yolanda. VP Binay, who wanted the job, would have done it differently I’d imagine, using the position to get close, one on one, to the most influential LGU heads. Not for public visibility.

  2. andrewlim8 says:

    “It’s usually blood and guts or promotion of ABS-CBN drama programs as news.”

    a ha ha ha , which is why I quit watching ABS a long time ago. I prefer solar news (soon to be channel 9) , where there are no ugly faces. 🙂 Well, maybe Jinno Rufino, but someone has to do sports. ha ha ha ha

    There is one sure thing for Mar: a Senate seat. He should just get back there. He started out well with Mr Palengke, and his cheap medicines law, but it stopped there. It’s been downhill since.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, he has the character, the good intent, the good brain. Just missing the showmanship and natural flair that would endear him to people. I note that most people call him “Mar” by his first name, as if there is a comfort level and closeness with him. Not like other politicians. But he still does not “sizzle”.

  3. vernon says:

    Dear Joe,

    Let me just say this – during the last US presidential elections there was a running gag using the Jeopardy format and it went like this: Answer: I am wooden, bland and hard to put a finger on. Question: Who is Mitt Romney? Today in the Philippine political setting, you may substitute Mar Roxas for Mitt Romney and you’d get a clear picture of the Roxas dillema.

    No amount of image makeover can help him. It’s just the way he is. Put his wife Korina beside him and……………………… need I say more?


    Another nice piece, Joe.


    • Joe America says:

      You know, that is an excellent, excellent parallel. Both Romney and Roxas come from the business community. Both are solid and well regarded. But they have no connection to people. I actually think the format forces Korina to be wooden on the news reports. Her specials are more relaxed and personable. It is also interesting that both Korina and Mar have worked hard, professionally, in their respective fields. Mitt, too. But . . .

      • Of what is happening now in the US – do you think Americans regretted their votes for Obama’s 2nd term? hehe

        • Joe America says:

          Ah, Mark, put me on the spot, huh? I was and remain an Obama supporter. President Aquino and President Obama work in similar poisoned circumstances, and President Obama’s situation is worse than President Aquino’s. The divide in the Philippines is crooks, leftists, and political opponents vs. Aquino. The divide in the US is extremist Republicans against Obama. In that atmosphere, yes, some voters would change their minds. I have not. I like Obama’s domestic and international approach. His health care reforms were much needed. His international approach has extracted the US from situations where America was propping up nations that are essentially ungovernable without brutality ruling (Afghanistan, Iraq). He can be criticized for botching Syria and I’d say anyone who thinks they could have worked through that conflict with successful results would be Jesus II. I think his policy on Iraq III is correct. Measured, protecting American interests and trying to prevent wholesale slaughter of religious minorities by ISIS.

          I have become politically poisoned myself, about US politics. I detest the right wing extremists who hold they are a better brand of American than others. They are just one step from being terrorists themselves, and, indeed, in blog discussion threads, they do behave as terrorists. It used to be that American politicians would never undermine the Commander in Chief of the military – the President – but now that is fair political play, too. I hate that failure to hold to values that are in the nation’s best interest – in favor of the interests of a political minority group (Tea Party). So I’m dismayed.

          I think President Obama is amazingly sturdy in the face of some of the criticisms, many of them racist in tone. His survey numbers are down. Would Mitt Romney have done better?

          Ahahahaha. I doubt it.

          Hillary Clinton? Hmmm. I’m not sure.

          What I have found out is that many people don’t like President Obama personally, Bill Clinton evidently being one of them. Obama comes across to them as unbearably arrogant.

          But it is a tough job. No doubt.

  4. macspeed says:

    @Joe Am

    If one has even the simplest objective on why run for Presidency such as Economic surge within the term, will be questioned and the responses will complicate the target. Presidency is not as simple as eating a pie, one who does like this way and coupled with a narrow bandwidth for judgment on management of the whole country will subject everyone to a standstill. If Mar Roxas intension is to run for Presidency, then he better start his operation now, doing more of finishing outstanding work schedule and continues to check and approve the new ones that comes up on his office. Stop playing games any sort of and provide solutions to other government issues arising from sudden whistle blowing or similar aspect. A solid performance will cover all previous low energy level operations.
    Lets watch the other performance assigned to them, till 2016, such as VP Binay, Sen Trillianes, Sen Chiz Escudero, Sen Grace Poe and others…those that have blue prints will be a strong candidate…

    • Joe America says:

      That is a very good idea, Mac. In a way, that was one of the reasons I was disappointed with Poe’s questions at the Abad hearing. I think she missed an opportunity to demonstrate a “large executive/diplomatic brain” for some important, but minor, points. Yet the aspirants ought not force, or “game” people, either, by taking contrived stands, as Cayetano did early on. The public is sharp on picking up on that I think, under the spotlight of social media.

  5. gerverg1885 says:

    Whoever thought of making Mar pose with a sack of rice on his shoulder should have his head examined because people know that he could not lift even a kilogram of rice. The guy was born with a silver platter in his mouth and he will never know the harshness of the hard work that ordinary working people endures.

    If I am his PR man, I’d make him act his ordinary self, meaning, we all know that politicians ot leaders are not expected to mimic ordinary working people, like those in the past who were made to plant rice with their feet wet on the muddy water while the cameras are clicking or directing traffic when we all know that even VP Binay will not do it when his convoy gets stuck in traffic. He should be the plain Mar that we all knew.He could not be as believable as the late Jesse Robredo in his trademark ‘tsinelas.’

    His PR handlers had been inflicting a heavy damage to his persona ever since that photo of him pedaling a tricycle with his newly polished shoes came out when he ran for senator. Maybe it worked then because he won but any attempt to portray him now as one with the ordinary working people produces the opposite effect.

    He should aspire to be a comedian instead. The presidency is for real honest people.

    • Joe America says:

      Haha, yes, comedian, unless he can get genuine real fast. The bag of rice . . . it reminds me of a recent US presidential candidate Howard Dean who was running well, had used the internet innovatively to reach out across America, but made the mistake of screaming “yeeehaaaaaw” after a rally in such a way that the whole nation suddenly decided he did not act like presidential material. The popularity switch went of “off” and he was suddenly out of the race.

      I agree, aspiring presidents do not haul rice sacks, they do not pedal bicycles, they do not direct traffic. They do not try to con the public. They project calm and intelligence and strength.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        The bag of rice was more like Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign trying to appear cool and “with it” by singing “Who let the dogs out?”, a song popular in 1998.

  6. parengtony says:

    I submit that Grace Poe is not what is disliked about Mar Roxas (wooden puppet, talking head, not genuine, etc) and Jojo Binay (lack of integrity, unprincipled, machiavellian, etc); that she is more charismatic, profound, respectable, a leader, and a manager compared to these two pretenders. Ergo, Grace is my presidentiable.

    • Joe America says:

      A good choice. I hope she steps forward and demonstrates she has the strength to take it on.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        She must throw Chiz Escudero overboard before I even look in her direction.

        • Joe America says:

          That’s interesting. (1) Why don’t you like the guy? (2) Whom do you like? I can’t get a strong handle on Escudero. He seems like a reasonably reasonable guy, which itself is a strength. I don’t see any strong candidates able to stand up to Binay. Both Poe and Escudero are popularly popular.

          • manuel buencamino says:

            (1) Why don’t you like the guy? He is not in politics to serve. He has the same appeal to voters that Ted Bundy had to his victims.
            (2) Whom do you like? Leni Robredo, Sonny Angara, Butch Abad…

            • Joe America says:

              Hahahaha, okay. ROFLMAO on Escudero. I also like two of your choices, but all three are tough sells.

            • parengtony says:

              I like Leni Robredo but not Sonny Angara (Is it possible that he is not privy to Ed Angara’s too-many-to-count dark schemes?) and Butch Abad (Is it possible that he was unaware of all the public funds theft going on over the last 4 years?).

              I used to like Chiz a lot but I I have of late found him to not take a committed stand on issues that really matter. In contrast, I like my tocayo Trillanes for his courage in taking on Gloria and Mike, as well as Enrile and the rich and powerful military generals.

              I like that the Cayetano siblings are becoming favorite targets of the Binay Dynasty. I am excited that this seems to be shaping up as a grand family fight between the amateur underdogs (David, albeit matangkad) vs the trapo professionals (Goliath, albeit pandak).

              Its more fun in the Philippines!

  7. cha says:

    So the guy looks wooden and is probably lacking in charisma; awkward perhaps and prone to saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, posing for somewhat laughable and meme-worthy photos, and all that jazz. But are these the worst that can be said of him as a presidential wanna-be? No unexplained wealth, no multi-million scams attached to his name, no political scandals, not even of the salacious kind to whet the appetite of the more avid gossip gourmands?

    If not being on the jocks’ or the popular groups’ table is what should keep this nerdy character from becoming President, then by jove, don’t we all need to leave high school behind already!

    What about his track record, his performance to date? Shouldn’t that what we should be talking about?

    Was he really the failure at the DOTC that people make him out to be? How long was he even been at the DOTC post? If I remember right, didn’t he come in as a replacement for Ping De Jesus and has barely had time to warm up his DOTC seat when he then moved on to DILG to replace Jesse Robredo?

    So how goest the DILG assignment? On top of the gaffes that Philippine media seems to so eagerly report for every time the man opens his mouth or fails to anticipate what apparently everyone else would have been able to anticipate in a crisis situation, like you know, bring a satellite phone with him to Tacloban for typhoon Haiyan (I wonder why Defense Sec. Gazmin didn’t get flak for that as well) , has the press really bothered to make a thorough investigation of what has been accomplished/ not accomplished by the Department since he stepped in?

    I don’t know the guy from Adam. I have no strong opinion of him as either good or poor material for President. All I can say is that I’m keeping an open mind and that I wish we all could look beyond the superficial and focus on serious credentials as we choose the candidate we will support in 2016. After all, we are not voting for Prom King or Queen.

    • Joe America says:

      All excellent questions, and I wish I had the answers. I wish we had better insights into his role in Zamboanga. Perhaps we would be seeing him as a hero rather than a rice sack goat. And indeed, he has strengths that get overshadowed by the tendency of both the press and social media to ridicule. For me, his golf club rant was instructional, and unnerving. And I think he could do a better job of playing to his strengths by projecting executive demeanor. I think Jesse Robredo could win by being casual, but it works exactly the opposite for Mar Roxas. I’d like to see him in a western business suit, frankly. Politics is a superficial game, an image game, and he has not hit any stride at all. But your point is good. We ought to list the strengths along with the weaknesses, and then try to figure out if either the strengths or weaknesses are superficial, or real.

    • josephivo says:

      Result = Quality X Acceptance. If you like it or not. The 100% perfect guy that nobody accepts will score a zero and he will never have a positive influence. Also the totally useless guy that everybody likes will have never have a positive influence.

      So far we have only have two candidates, a close to perfect one nobody likes, and someone everybody likes but who is so opportunistic that is close to useless. How frustrating. So how to make the first one accepted by the masses or how to guarantee a core of seriousness in the second one? Or is the easy way out to find a third candidate?

      • cha says:

        The first option (making the first one accepted by the masses) can only work if the so called intelligentsia buy into Mar Roxas themselves. As it is, it looks like many are actually deterred if not focusing on Mar Roxas’ image problem themselves.

        The second option, I don’t see happening. 🙂

        The third I think can go along with option 1, at least until the candidates actually file their candidacy. Then it’s time to make final choices.

        I’d like to add though a fourth option, for each of us to try and change the direction of discourse in our own circles of influence, to shift from issues of image to issues that should matter more.

  8. cha says:

    Re: the golf club rant, was that captured on video like the Junjun Binay incident was? I wonder how bad it really was?

    Even then, if someone were to make something out of my own outbursts here and there, I’d probably make it to a list of unfit mothers this side of town. 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      Not taped, I think. It was bad, for it would take a lot for a dignitary like Roxas to earn a suspension at his own golf club. The parallel is interesting, though, as both Roxas and Binay teed off on working stiffs. I don’t imagine you doing that, but I can envision you teeing off on a politician or blogger or . . . . ahahahaha . . . husband when he neglects to take out the trash. 😀 As for my own rants, I explain to others that I am just like Senator Santiago, with hypertension, and so can therefore be excused for excessive . . . ummm . . . passions.

  9. brianitus says:

    Hey, Uncle Joe. Nailed it on this one. I guess the man lacks the X-factor and should consider seeing a real image specialist.

    I want to play spin doctor for Mar Roxas. I think the negatives can turn into positives.

    1. He’s “wooden” or almost emotionless at times, maybe they can craft the image of a workaholic secretary of the interior. If he wants to be an action man, hell, make him join police raids and not just appear after a raid. Have him slap drug dealers like Duterte. Have him talk tough without the curse words.He can be a robot or like the Terminator and have a catch phrase, like “I’ll be baaack” or “Hasta la vista, baby.” If things get really desperate, he can try the movies. He can be the next Pinoy Machete, the wooden tribesman who turns into a sex god or something.

    2. He appears “distant” or disconnected with the masses. If I were in his shoes, I’d probably say that I’ll work harder to get to know my people better. I’ll say that I won’t pretend to know everything that the masses need and want because those evolve and can change throughout the course of a presidential term. If I’m not seen eating with my bare hands with the poor, it’s because I’m working harder for them. Man, I hate those “plastic” presidential photos.

    3. Next time he tries to direct traffic, have an army of enforcers with him. Next time he tries to carry a sack of rice, have a team of kargadors do it. I mean, if he’s rich and can afford it, he should share it. Be a Robin Hood rather than pretending to be one with the common folk. Pinoys love a kingly king.. Heck, instead of pedaling a stupid pedicab, give the masses a ride in his Mercedes Benz.

    My point: Embrace the conio-ness. I never trust a person who appears to be in denial.

    • Joe America says:

      Re.#1, that would turn his temper into a good value as well, impatient and brusk, but not nasty. #2 I think that is what he has been trying to do but comes across contrived. Plastic, as you call it. I’d like to see him start giving press conferences that take the popular issues like Yolanda or smuggling or police corruption, and talk plain and clear and tough (#1). #3 Yes, exactly. He is from a high class background, be that, as in confident and smart. People can respect that. That’s why I said somewhere, he should climb into an American business suit – like when he sweeps in for a raid.

      I think there is a place for you in politics young whippersnapper . . .

      • brianitus says:

        Politics and me? Instant noodles as a campaign giveaway! I’ll probably sell the idea that I’m the candidate who’ll fill you up and warm your tummy. LOL.

        Nakakabusog si brianitus. =P

  10. ikalwewe says:

    My respect for Mar went down several notches when I saw the video of him attempting to direct traffic. My first comment was, so someone was taping him while he directed the traffic? It was a bit too professionally done, and left a foul taste in my mouth. But I never liked him to start with, so maybe I’m just biased. People are just too smart now to be bought easily…and to think we would be fooled is just insulting!

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