MANILA, Philippines—Thanks to Photoshop, candidates in the May 13 elections don’t have to worry about blackheads and bad angles.
With the click of a mouse and the stroke of a digital brush, they can now look better or, in the case of some candidates, 20 years younger.
But the practice begs the question: What is left of truth in political advertising?
Rep. Toby Tiangco, campaign manager of the United Nationalist Alliance, acknowledged the importance of improving a candidate’s looks, at least on campaign posters and TV ads.
Political “photoshopping” crosses party lines. Opposition or administration candidates can get rid of those blemishes, those sagging eyelids, or receding hairline.
Politics is perception, campaign strategists like Tiangco have long held, and that explains the huge investment by moneyed candidates in media advertising, particularly TV.
But Tiangco believes there should be a limit to the computer enhancement.
“Dapat naman malapit sa katotohanan (It should be close to the truth, at least),” he said when reached by the Inquirer Thursday.
He likened digital manipulation to cosmetics—it should simply enhance a candidate’s looks, not transform him into an entirely different person.
“Because it might also back fire,” he warned. “Sometimes voters might ask, ‘How come you don’t look like the one in the posters?'”
“Photoshop is OK, but you don’t have to look 20 years younger,” he added.
Tiangco need not look far for an exhibit. No less than ex-President Joseph Estrada, one of the three senior UNA leaders, appears in campaign posters looking much younger than his actual age.
Not that he’s that old at 75, especially since he’s just several months detached from a rejuvenating stem cell procedure in Germany. But the image appears at least a decade younger.
Even President Benigno Aquino III appears to benefit from digital technology. His hair doesn’t look as thin in political ads, his face more radiant and smooth.
In a separate interview, Estrada said he was all fit and ready to go. He is running for mayor of Manila, hoping to close his political career where he started: mayor.
But there is no denying that it’s a younger Estrada in those posters, including those of his son, San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito, now also going by the surname Estrada. Some posters show Ejercito’s picture superimposed on an image of his father, a common practice among candidates banking on the name recall of more popular relatives.
Tiangco is curious about how the incongruence between poster image and reality would affect a candidate’s chances.
“I don’t know how it will affect voters. I haven’t thought of asking that in surveys. Perhaps, they’ll laugh about it but come election day, they’ll still vote for the candidate,” he said. “But more than the posters, what’s more important is the candidate’s platform and advocacies.”