Dela Rosa: Biopic will ‘prop-up’ Senate run

Bea Cupin
Dela Rosa: Biopic will ‘prop-up’ Senate run
The movie airs two weeks before the 2019 campaign period begins

MANILA, Philippines – While the lead star and production team of Bato: The General Ronald dela Rosa Story are careful to downplay the political advantage of releasing a biopic weeks before the 2019 campaign period begins, it’s Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa himself who’s upfront about its perks.

Prankahin natin – itong pelikula [na ito], napakalaking [tulong na] mag prop-up sa aking pagkatakbo na senador,” said Dela Rosa – who’s running under an administration-backed coalition – in a press conference for the movie on Monday, January 28.

(Let’s be frank – this movie will be a huge help in propping up my candidacy as senator.)

The movie, which stars action star and prominent administration supporter Robin Padilla as Dela Rosa, traces the life of the former police chief – from his youth to his rise as top general of a 160,000-strong police force under President Rodrigo Duterte. Padilla, who repeatedly said he personally looks up to Dela Rosa, said the movie would show the retired police general’s “human” side.

Di ko lubos maisip na ganito na pala ngayon, gagawing pelikula ang buhay ko…siguro the Lord has a plan for everyone (I never imagined that one day, my life would be turned into a movie…maybe the Lord has a plan for everyone),” said Dela Rosa during the press conference.

Pangarap ko talaga maka-inspire sa mga kabataan (My dream is to really inspire the youth),” added the former general, referring to his rags-to-riches story.

While both Dela Rosa, Padilla, and the team behind the movie see “inspiration” in its story, it’s a sentiment that isn’t exactly universal.

Critics have pointed out that it’s a form of premature campaigning. It, however, skirts legal prohibitions against it because it will hit cinemas on January 30 and will be pulled out just before the official campaign period begins on February 12. (READ: EXPLAINER: Why ‘candidates’ can spend so much and not report it)

The phenomenon of candidates having biopics – released in theaters or television – is nothing new, however. Candidates in the past have had their lives featured in the long-running anthology drama, Maalaala Mo Kaya. (READ: 3 days before campaign, MMK to feature Robredo)

The Fair Elections Act explicitly states that “No movie, cinematograph or documentary portraying the life or biography of a candidate shall be publicly exhibited in a theater, television station or any public forum during the campaign period.” But this is easily avoidable by having the episode air before the campaign period itself or letting relatives be the subject of the episodes.

Duterte’s Bato

Dela Rosa was the first PNP chief under Duterte. It was under his watch that Duterte’s controversial campaign against illegal drugs – often called the “drug war” – was launched.

Tens of thousands of deaths have been linked to the campaign against illegal drugs, with evidence pointing to the involvement of cops themselves in extrajudicial killings. It’s an allegation that Dela Rosa, as police chief, had vehemently denied.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1986, Dela Rosa spent most of his career in Mindanao. It’s there where he met Duterte, then mayor of Davao City.

He served as PNP chief for over two years before he retired. He was then appointed head of the Corrections Bureau. He quit his post when he filed his candidacy for senator.

Dela Rosa has consistently done well in pre-election senatorial surveys.

Bato: The General Ronald dela Rosa Story stars Padilla as Dela Rosa, Beauty Gonzales as Dela Rosa’s wife Nancy, and is directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. – 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.