Friday, August 30, 2013

Social Media Power: The Revolt of the Filipino Netizens

This story and most of the accompanying pictures appeared as 'Filipino netizens revolt' in the 30Aug-05Sep 2013 issue of the FilAm Star, a news weekly in the Bay Area.

In an early evening TV newscast, I got the man's name as Dino Guevarra in an interview by a reporter. They are one of many families that joined the Million People March sa Luneta. This appeared in the front page of the cited FilAm Star issue.

It only took 10 days to mobilize Filipinos in the world wide web to march in protest against the misuse and abuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), popularly called pork barrel. This came in the wake of the exposé of a Php10-billion scam allegedly perpetrated by the company of Janet Lim-Napoles over the past 10 years involving the use of pork barrel funds for ghost projects.

Ito Rapadas, music production manager and a musical artist himself, started in all with his Facebook posting of August 16. 

“Nakakasawa na,” he said. “What we need is a MILLION PEOPLE MARCH by struggling Filipino taxpayers--a day of protest by the silent majority that would demand all politicians and gov[ernment] officials (whatever the political stripes, color they may carry) to stop pocketing our taxes borne out from our hard work by means of these pork barrel scams and other creative criminal acts. They don't want to investigate themselves, they remain relaxed and unperturbed because they believe it will die down in time. Let's make them feel that this time is different [be]cause we are all sick and tired of it! Pls. share if you agree!”

Peachy Rallonza-Bretaña picked it up immediately and suggested it be at the Luneta on August 26, Araw ng Mga Bayani (National Heroes Day), a national holiday in the Philippines, “[b]ecause we the taxpayers who pay our full taxes from our wages are the real heroes who should be heard by these Mafia senators and congressmen. We need this outrage, anger to reach critical mass. Spread the word. Repost.”

He may be innocent of what was going on around him.  Will pork barrel still be a hot issue in his time? I took this photo at the Gabriela group's area.

The digital ball started rolling/flying to all corners of the web, and pretty soon, memes, posters, slogans and calls for collective action sprouted in social media accounts of netizens: Facebook, Twitter, blogs and emails. Permit not needed, declared Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada.

Overseas Pinoy netizens all over the world staged their versions of the Luneta Million People March in front of Philippine embassies and consulates (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London), and even in their work places (Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong), and shared them in real time via the social media with their fellow protesters in the homeland.  

A few of the many 'fashion'able protest statements on t-shirts.

There may not have been a million people who gathered in Luneta; about a 100,000, police authorities said.  But there were also marchers in towns and cities in Luzon (Olongapo, Baguio, Vigan), Visayas (Cebu, Dumaguete, Iloilo) and Mindanao (Davao, Zamboanga), and those who participated virtually through text links to their marcher friends and relatives.    

People gathered in front of the Quirino Grandstand, around the iconic Rizal monument, on the steps flanked by the carabao and tamaraw sculptures.

What mattered was that there was collective action by diverse groups even if there was no formal organizing party at all.  They came just the same to the historic Luneta passing by the giant statue of Lapu-Lapu, the busts of revolutionary heroes lining the parallel lanes leading to the iconic monument of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, and gathered at designated places in front of the grandstand: individuals and families, young and old, Christians and Muslims, people with handicaps, students and teachers, workers, professionals and businessmen, priests and nuns, artists and celebrities, retired and current public servants, unaffiliated groups and, as expected, activist organizations. Someone called this the gathering of the new middle class.

'Makibaka, Huwag MagBaboy! Oink! Oink!' with clenched fists, thumbs down.

Many veterans of the EDSA revolts were around like Prof. Andy David, who, in an interview later in the evening, recalled that his 12-year old granddaughter inspired him to go to the March.  She asked if he's going, and that she would be going with him.  He remarked that he was astonished to find so many politically conscious young men and women at the Luneta event.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle joined the march and, according to reports, called the participants to be “guided by their conscience” and later led them sing “Pananagutan.”  We saw former Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona arriving with his family but we heard, he did not stay long because his presence was not exactly welcome. We listened to the venerable Sister Mary John Mananzan, OSB, calling also for the abolition of the president’s own pork barrel, the Php310-billion Special Purpose Funds.

Banners said it all, in words and graphics.

It was a peaceful gathering, more like a picnic of groups and individuals predominantly dressed in white or tee-shirts printed with anti-pork symbols or slogans.  Everyone was free to move around to read protest banners and manifestos, to sign petitions, to hop from one forum to another and listen to views of different speakers, to listen to various musical expressions accompanying calls for better governance—the sound of ram horns from a religious group, a reminder of the fall of Jericho; the buzz of butakas, bamboo clappers from the Cordilleras; the rhythm of kulintangs and gongs; a vintage Hagibis song transformed by singer Jograd dela Torre into the day’s theme song; and patriotic songs from activist groups.

More slogans.  I like the 'Porktang*na Nyo!' in the bottom picture.
Vendors also said their piece.
The Luneta event had shades of earlier people power movements.  Texts, tweets, blogs, Facebook messages replaced the Xeroxed protest papers; and the digital memes, slogans and posters were reminiscent of peryodikit clandestinely posted on walls during the repressive martial law years.

The venerable Sister Mary John Mananzan, OSB, veteran of the EDSA revolts, was in her usual well-known fighting mood. In another forum (right), an Atenean and a La Sallian took time for some jesting before they gave their anti-pork views.

The battle cry Makibaka, Huwag Matakot at the activist front during the First Quarter Storm became Makibaka, Huwag Magbaboy, at the Luneta mass rally.

Instead of Ibagsak!, the protesters shouted, Oink, Oink!, with clenched fists and thumbs down.

Going as far back as 1896, the day was when Andres Bonifacio and his fellow katipuneros cried in rebellion against the Spanish authorities.  The late noted historian Teodoro Agoncillo called that struggle the revolt of the masses.  

August 26, 2013 may be the beginning of the revolt of the netizens. They will keep vigilant watch on Malacañang and the lawmakers, on what they do and what they say in response to the demands voiced out in Luneta: abolition of the pork, and transparency and accountability in the investigation of the pork scam.

The President's Special Fund was not spared. These caricatures provided colorful political commentaries.

As we write this, a new call has appeared in Facebook: “Ituloy ang laban: MARTSA ULIT SA SEPTEMBER 21!” [Continue the fight: Let’s march again on September 21!”].  That’s the date when Marcos declared martial law.

1 comment:

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