Painting PH: The Colors of Philippine Politics

Words by Toni Ysabel Dimaano

When it comes to politics, colors are powerful tools used to send a message without even  saying anything at all. In the Philippines, there is perhaps nothing more colorful than the Filipinos’ bright smiles and festivities, but the season of electing the next leaders of the nation.

Specific colors have been used to represent universal values across the globe for political parties that uphold the same beliefs. In the country, colors also play a huge role in building public trust and promoting a sense of unity and belongingness among voters as they act to appeal to the shared emotions of the public. These colors amplify a politician’s impact through appearance-associated desires and carefully curated images that are enough to hold a strong political stance.

In some countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, blue and red remains the colors of politics as a reflection of the predominantly two-party electoral system that remains until today, wherein the color blue is often associated with the conservative traditionalist parties, while red is for socialist democrats and, in other cases, labor-communist unions. However, for other countries with a multi-party system like India, Indonesia, and Korea, the colors yellow for center-left liberals, green for environmental and Islamic nationalists, orange for pro-market libertarians, white for independent two-side ideologists who balance a neutrality between the conservatives and the liberals, and purple for feminist and centrist parties have also been used to signify a stance towards specific causes and ideologies that certain politicians endorse in their campaigns and platforms. 

The same observation can be made for the Philippines, being another country with a multi-party electoral system in Asia. In the past decades, while red nationalists in the likes of the pro-Marcoses and yellow liberals like the Aquino loyalists have shared dominance over the colors of politics, many other parties and personalities like the orange Villars, white and green Loren Legarda camps, and the purple and yellow trademark colors of Riza Hontiveros, to name a few, have risen to political popularity in recent years. However, the dichotomy made by the two influential families has continued to persist even though the Marcoses have not gained a position in Malacanang since 1986. But still, in every election, the battle of the red nationalists and yellow liberals continue through a new generation of politicians bred in the same system to succeed one after another. 

Before yellow covered a good portion of the nation, there has only been one hue in the Philippines which is the deep red of the first and oldest party in the Philippines, the Nacionalista Party, founded in 1902. The Nacionalista Party is also the party of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos whose downfall was brought about by the power of the people with Cory Aquino as one of the key figures. Cory Aquino was the wife of Benigno Aquino Jr., Liberal Party bet and known opposition to the Marcos regime who was assassinated during Martial Law. As the dichotomy continued in the previous presidencies, the rift between the yellow and red was reinforced within the successive terms of Noynoy Aquino and Rodrigo Duterte from PDP-Laban, a democratic socialist party that is also represented by the color red. However, this coming election, it is pink that is quickly becoming the “color of change ”.

VP Leni Robredo announced her candidacy for presidency and chose the color pink to represent her party – a departure from the traditional yellow she dons as she enters the 2022 presidential elections as an independent candidate. Pink, associated with the delicacy of femininity, is rarely regarded as strong, but as cultures around the world changed, it affected how society formed a new view on femininity as a symbol of strength and courage. While the idea of Robredo in pink seems to be an attempt to diffuse the polarization of the opposition and the Duterte administration, it is also a conscious attempt to focus her campaign on her individuality, rather than on the mixed legacy of her previous party. Pink’s association with gentleness is also a sharp turn from traditional politics, especially from Duterte who implemented a macho-fascist style of leadership. But as the supporters on the pink camp continue to gain numbers, the red is persistent for a challenge.

This presidential election, two candidates, completely different in political beliefs, are growing in popularity. One of them is Bongbong Marcos, son of the former dictator, and the other, labor-leader and activist Ka Leody De Guzman. The use of red is primarily associated with the Marcoses because of its ties to the Nacionalista Party, but the widespread reemergence of red as a color to represent the plight of the masses through Ka Leody’s campaign is going back to the roots of red as the color of revolution. The progressives from the left-wing and communists wear the color red to symbolize the fight for liberation and freedom that elicit a strong feeling of courage, love, and sacrifice from revolutionaries. As a labor-leader, the color red also represents the power of the masses in Ka Leody’s candidacy to whom he calls to end elitism and the corrupt political system in the country.

The existence of two completely contradicting reds in the current landscape of Philippine politics, although completely common in the United States, can bring confusion to the public. This is due to the fact that the Nacionalista red disguises themselves as a pro-country party b has a majority voters from the rural areas of the country, while the revolutionary red represents pro-people advocacies that often get misrepresented in the mainstream media and labeled by the government as terrorists. Because of this, the causes of the revolution that would benefit the whole of the nation gets undermined by the greater public due to the rampant attack and blatant misinformation.

The multi-party political system in the country which makes the elections as colorful as it is with different party colors bannered throughout the Philippines, along with the identity politics that come into play during the electoral season produces rather a spectacle. Instead of actually being helpful in providing the Filipinos with a number of options to choose who forwards an agenda that genuinely benefits the general public, this facade makes the color clashing more of an entertainment and less of a matter that should be taken seriously. Most importantly, the multi-party electoral system harms the nation in such a way that it provides the nation with a false sense of individuality among politicians that share the same ideals but chose to join a different partylist to gain personal and political benefit for themselves.

The multi-party system provides the Filipinos with an illusion of choice, masking politicians with the same values and intentions with different colors when they, in fact, have the same principles and go around about the same circle of influences as they came from almost identical walks of life – the upper class. This system seems to be more individualistic with little to no regard for real unity to establish genuine reforms necessary to change the systems that impede the betterment and compromise the quality of life of the Filipinos as more often than not, different parties that exist are just a subgroup of another to have more chances of occupying government positions. With this, it is valid and necessary to question and assess the intentions of a politician, no matter what color they represent as the multi-party political system only hides the miniscule differences these political parties actually have between them.

It is indeed important to ponder on whether the country is better off with a two-party system, or whether the multi-party system is working in its favor just right, but it shall never be forgotten that no matter who the politician is and no matter what color they choose to represent themselves, it is imperative to be critical and vigilant at all times for the sake of the Filipino people. It is crucial to elect leaders that are ready to serve the people with good intent and integrity, and leaders who shall uphold the rights of its constituents at all costs with unwavering regard for the improvement of the quality of life of the whole nation, especially this Halalan 2022 and after. And with elections nearing and political colors getting more saturated as May 9th approaches, remember that there is no color more revolutionary than the true red of the Filipino people. [P]

graphics by Jase Manatad

UPLB Perspective is the official student publication of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, established in 1973. It is the first campus publication established under Martial Law in the Philippines.

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