MANILA, Philippines - We remember hearing it first from movie world's "megastar" Sharon Cuneta--ages ago, pre-Kiko Pangilinan, and when the people of Pasay were urging her to run to replace her father (now deceased), Marcos-time mayor Pablo Cuneta: Showbiz is dirty, politics is dirtier.

It has since become a cliché, ironically as more and more entertainment personalities threw their hat into the political ring. Since Joseph Estrada won as president of the republic with a historic margin in 1998, the elections that followed witnessed a never-before-seen number of celebrities running for national and local posts.

In national polls, where name and face recall and sheer popularity could make a candidate stand out among 80 or so rivals, many artistas have won. At the local level, however, voters give weight to candidates' track record of service, long-term patronage, formidable machinery, and deep roots in the locality. Here, many-a-celebrity have been and will be up against the harsher realities of electoral battles--something that mere pretty smiles, flashy appearances, and glamorous-sounding screen names cannot fix. -

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