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Alma Moreno And The ‘Positive Effects’ Of Negative Publicity

The much-maligned senatorial candidate cracked the Top 20 of a nationwide survey. How the hell did that happen? We attempt an explanation.
by Anne Mari Ronquillo | Dec 18, 2015
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The most recent Pulse Asia nationwide survey revealed that senatorial candidate Alma Moreno is in the Top 20. 

Alma is remembered primarily as a film actor who reigned in the '70s and '80s. Ness, as she is called by her fans, first rose to national consciousness as a sexy movie star in the late seventies. At one point in her career she was called the "Sex Goddess of Philippine Movies." She transitioned to a major TV star in the '80s through her own variety show, Loveli-Ness. Your tito remember her program for its dance numbers, where Alma popularized the sexy, high-cut outfit known as the Tangga.

In the 2000s, she began a career in politics where she served in the city of Parañaque. There is a more recent memory of Ness that the public can't shake off just yet. In November of 2015, Alma made the rounds on social media due to a TV interview that could be best described as both awkward and annoying.

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These moments are free to watch over and over again on YouTube.

The interview became the talk of the country for the next few days and we don't need a company like Pulse Asia to tell us that the vibes incited in us by this impressionable conversation with Karen Davila is leaning towards some serious bemusement, if not complete doubt on Moreno's competency. The hashtag #PrayForAlma was soon launched into cyberspace as a means to share opinions among anyone who has anything to say about the issue. All this just shortly after the Paris attacks that merited the #PrayForParis hashtag.

The backlash was rough on Alma Moreno as the recurring sentiment was that she should not be running for office at all. The worst blow would have to be her show of amusement when being asked about a long-standing issue on reproductive health laws. Many women look for representation in the Senate and for her to show half-assed support towards reproductive rights was deemed downright insulting to every female voter in the country.

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Makes you wonder why Moreno is just six to eight spots away from being a senator—she's apparently ranked 18th-20th out of 172 candidates. Have people lost their minds? Someone who couldn't conjure straight, cohesive responses to a short sit-down is suddenly a popular candidate? People actually want her serving the country? It's bewildering, for sure, but perhaps not surprising.

An old adage goes, "any publicity is good publicity." Has Alma Moreno actually benefitted from extremely bad press? Many would argue that putting her in the spotlight boosted her chances at being elected as a senator. Elections are popularity contests in the Philippines. Tito Sotto, a seasoned senator in terms of service years, came out as the Number One candidate in the same survey despite the controversies that he had been involved in in recent years. Remember how much flack he got from allegedly plagiarizing John F. Kennedy's speech in 2012? Just this year, he was called out on a cultural appropriation kerfuffle for dressing up in traditional Arab clothes for Halloween. You'd think he'd become a most unpopular politician, but here he is, top of the charts.

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A 2010 study published by the Marketing Science Department of Stanford investigated the effects of negative publicity on product sales. Though inconclusive, it emphasized that awareness is definitely increased by bad publicity. Perhaps this is the very thing that propelled Moreno to the Top 20. Perhaps science doesn't have a say when it comes to good ol' Pinoy sympathy.

Following her catastrophic interview, Ness became a victim at some point. Her friends and family came to her defense, saying that people were too harsh and judgy.

Alma Moreno’s hesitation to answer some of the questions made her appear inarticulate, provoking the public to go as far as ridiculing her by way of belittlement. She became the freak show headline in the media circus.

Her son, Vandolph, came roaring back at the press, stating that Moreno had been serving the city of Parañaque for a long time and is a respected leader in her own right. He added that a lot of the time, politicians use their eloquence to mask their corrupt agendas and that his mother is nothing like them.

The critical thinker would do the decent thing and actually look at Alma's portfolio to determine whether the aftermath of #PrayForAlma gives anyone the right to discredit her as a good candidate. However, many Filipinos like to ride along the sensation of humiliating a vulnerable personality for the heck of it. It’s difficult to know if she is actually being taken seriously. People talk and talk and TALK about her until her name is all that can be heard.

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This kind of attitude does not stop at the subject of Alma Moreno. It’s becoming true for a lot of candidates, even the presidential ones. Especially the presidential ones. Issues irrelevant to their actual platform are becoming media fodder, and the public is forced to focus on these instead of more intelligent scrutiny. If Filipinos keep at this, the candidate you hate the most that you keep talking about becomes your president.

Whether Alma Moreno is qualified is in the hands of voters. If this controversy were to teach Filipinos anything, let it be that people should make sure to look carefully at every candidate's platform and credentials. More importantly, to look at every candidate and not just the ones who are playing the music the media dances to.

Memes from and Senyorita Santibañez Facebook page

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