Organizing Philippine social media as a force for good works

dynasties in political parties 2012 voxeudotorg

Dynastic influence within political parties. The Mendoza Report, 2012 []

We tend to look at social media as a way to communicate with each other quickly and conveniently. I’d like to propose that it is more than that. Or can be more. It can be a representative community.

We all know what social media are and have our favorite on-line playgrounds. It seems to me that we don’t really USE the media much for anything but small-time advertising or our relentless jabber. It’s like the claim that we humans have huge brains but only use 10 percent of it. We don’t use social media to its fullest.

For example, I’ve written that the internet would be a great way to improve the quality of education in the Philippines using on-line lessons and exams prepared by the best of the best instructors. There would be a central hub for lesson preparation and a call-center approach to grading and one-on-one counseling. That kind of thing. Meanwhile, students are struggling to lug a ton of worn, poorly done or outdated text books down the farm to market road in the rain.

Let’s think about this. How might we use the internet and social media to better ends than the low-key personal chatter that is now the norm?

Consider this:

What are the problems with today’s political parties in the Philippines?

  1. They are based on personality rather than platform
    • Members change parties to find one that benefits them personally
    • There is little substantive policy difference between parties
  2. Dynasties have undue influence within these parties

So think about the internet and its potential to correct both these flaws by: (1) promoting a platform of policies and proposed acts, and (2) eliminating dynasties from power positions.

We know that the internet and social media are changing the way we behave and interact. Let’s examine what we’ve learned over recent years.

Social media as a force

Social media can be a force for good or bad. Howard Dean, democratic presidential aspirant in the US in 2004, used social media to galvanize popular support. Funds were raised a few dollars at a time across the nation rather than pandering to a few moneyed rich supporters to whom Mr. Dean would forever owe allegiance. Unfortunately, his intricate internet house of cards collapsed when he issued forth a particularly repelling “Yee hawww!” at the end of a political rally. Americans don’t like presidents who go “Yee haw!.

But President Obama was elected twice on the strength of small dollar funding and wide internet outreach.

Social media can also be a force for bad. It is a common operating channel for fraud, child pornography and child trafficking, and terrorism.

Spies and Google, nefarious (?) data collectors

People in buildings somewhere are tracking our every click. In the US, it is NSA. In China it is Unit 61398 in Shanghai. Google and Facebook follow us around like perverts sneaking across the park. They know the sites we visit, the time we spend there, the correlations that arise as to who else clicks there, and the specific connections we make with known agents of the devil. They get to define the devil.

Interestingly enough, when Google took the initiative to “out” a child trafficker, Google was roundly condemned for it. If they can do that, they can pry anywhere, and that thought unnerved a lot of people.

NSA very likely scans my e-mails when I write my kids in the US. I sweep my house for bugs every day. But I can’t sweep my computer connections once I’ve clicked the browser. German spies, Israeli spies, Chinese spies. We have the sneakiest, creepiest planet in the universe, I am quite confident of that.

The Facebook Study

We don’t even know how we are affected by social media. Facebook recently did a controversial study (controversial because they used customer private information as the foundation of their research) and discovered that people working on line tend to follow cues. If they are shown a lot of negative information, they turn negative in their comments. If they are shown a lot of positive information, they turn positive in their comments.

We are the rats. The press and advertisers – and, yes, our social media “friends” – are Pavlov ringing bells every time we log on.

The Spiral of Silence

The latest discovery is that, contrary to expectation, social media do not ENCOURAGE discussion of difficult topics. People instead have learned to shy away from discussion of important matters. [“Study: Social media users shy away from opinions“; Inquirer]

Well, its no wonder considering the hordes of roaming trolls waiting and baiting to soundly thump and insult anyone who utters a contrary word.

What if we took control instead?

Most of these studies and trends point to us as social media pawns, as subjects of the outer world, ignorant Pavlovian rats learning to be controlled. Buying into trends, bribed into pushing “like”, having a list of “favorites” that would fill Santa’s bottomless sack.

Enough. Enough, I say.

Let us shuck aside the notion that social media are in control of us. Let’s take charge.

The main feature of social media is that it is generally individualized, a tailored exercise of “one”. It is not an organization with goals and ethics and acts aimed at much of anything. Oh, sure, small groups band together and accomplish things (protest groups, fund raisers, terrorists). But social media have not yet been integrated as a PARTY TO THE WORKINGS OF GOVERNMENT.


So what if an enterprising group took it upon themselves to form the Social Media Political Party of the Philippines (SMPPP). I’m guessing it could be structured to fulfill the requirements for a party list group. I’m wondering if, in a couple of election cycles, it could unseat all the dynastic barons and replace them with legitimate representatives interested in nation over private gain.

Comelec rules for qualifying [Resolution No. 9366]

SEC. 3. Who may participate. The following organized groups may participate in the party-list election:

  1. Sectoral party an organized group of citizens whose principal advocacy pertains to the special interests and concerns of the following sectors: Labor; Peasant; Urban Poor; Indigenous Cultural Communities; Elderly; Handicapped; Women; Youth; Overseas Workers; Fisherfolk; Veterans; and Professionals;
  2. Sectoral organization a group of qualified voters bound together by similar physical attributes or characteristics, or by employment, interests or concerns;
  3. Political Party an organized group of qualified voters pursuing the same ideology, political ideas and principles for the general conduct of the government;It is a national party when its constituency is spread over the geographical territory of at least a majority of the regions. It is a regional party when its constituency is spread over the geographical territory of at least majority of the cities and provinces comprising the region.
  4. Coalition an aggrupation of duly-registered national, regional. Sectoral parties or organizations for political and/or election purposes.

Well, boy howdy, here’s a draft chartering statement

The Social Media Political Party of the Philippines (SMPPP) is an organized group of qualified voters spread across the nation. The group pursues an ideology of transparent, accountable government processes accelerated as to form and implementation to assure responsive, responsible, productive government policies and acts. The objective of the party is to do away with the ignorance, cheating, secrecy, and ineffective processes now embedded in government by favoritism, corruption and the pursuit of private interests over national interests, and to replace it with fast, wholesome, productive policies and acts that respect the diversity that exists in the Philippines, and marshals that diversity into a new sense of union. The party makes use of social media and internet platforms to communicate quickly and competently, bringing a dynamic of “can do” achievement to political reforms and good deeds.

The steps to implementation are straightforward.

  • Establish a Founding Committee and then an Executive Committee; put in place an on-line meeting capability (e.g., Skype).
  • Establish policies and platform: write bylaws (for example, one might be that adopted policies and programs require a two-thirds majority decision by the Executive Committee).
  • Put some meat on the party platform, including a list of proposed high-priority bills.
  • Build a secure system to receive, validate, and store voting credentials of members – and assure they are always updated and current.
  • Connect all party members via text, e-mail or social media addresses for quick and easy communication from the center out, and with a process for inbound suggestions from registered members.
  • Solicit small-increment funding from members.
  • Suggest to members how to best apply their votes. Develop the power to “make or break” political issues.

What do you think?


28 Responses to “Organizing Philippine social media as a force for good works”
  1. edgar lores says:

    Just a quick response. There’s a fly in the ointment. Most internet users and commenters, unlike Raissa and moi, use pseudonyms. OP , not being a citizen, is excluded. 😉

    • Joe America says:

      As I imagine the development of a formal organization, registration in the organization would require actual name and voter registration number, along with other information to include popular name for social media contact.

      • Dolly Gonzales says:

        “…a group of qualified voters bound together by similar physical attributes or characteristics…”

        Immediate, involuntary thought bubble: By body mass index?

        “I sweep my house for bugs every day.”

        Hilarious! 🙂

        Great idea, great article!

        Brings to mind the elderly bus monitor in NY bullied by school kids, who received donations from strangers the world over totaling, what, over $700,000?

        Sometimes even rabid judgments or ‘chismis’ – (the Vhong Navarro / Deniece Cornejo case, for instance, whichever side one is on) – are a reminder of boundaries, and of one’s responsibility as a member of society.

        People are generally good. 🙂 I believe social media as a force for good works is certainly doable.

      • edgar lores says:

        1. Ok, thanks for that. Scratch my initial response.

        2. My objections and questions would then be:

        2.1. This would be perpetuating the party list system. As I have opined before, this system is an undemocratic and inequitable arrangement in that it provides multiple representation for certain segments of the population.

        2.2. Can there a true representative of social media? The opinions on social media are disunited and contradictory of each other.

        2.3. Should there be only one representative of social media? The Internet is fragmented. Apart from blogger-posters and blogger-commenters, there are Facebookers, Twitterites, Redditors, Imgurians, Instagrammers and what-have-you.

        2.4. What advocacies should the representative advance? Should it be on particular political issues such as dynasties and FOI? Or should it be on general Internet issues like security, privacy, access and openness? Should it be on the development issues like spreading usage by the donation of secondhand devices and the installation of free wifi hotspots in parks, plazas and malls?

        2.5. What primary social medium would the party use? Facebook? Kaya Natin? PinoyExchange?

        • Joe America says:

          I’ll answer as if I were responsible for the whole shebang, which I could not be, as I am not a citizen.

          2.1 We play by the rules that exist. If party-list is the fastest and easiest way to accreditation, that would be the path we’d take. If they were no longer permitted, we’d pursue becoming a political party, or just a powerful block of voters who would associate with certain issues and candidates.

          2.2 Our appeal would be to those who like the platform of specific achievements we would undertake. That is the point of unification. The platform would eliminate the contradictions. We’d have a position about sacrifice of individual prerogative from time to time to ensure power to the (social media) people. Loyalty to party would be encouraged but not be mandatory.

          2.3 Same answer as 2.2. The platform eliminates fragmentation. People either buy into it or reject it. Their inhabited realm of the electronic universe does not matter.

          2.4 Yes. The platform is very important, I agree. It will focus on social/economic issues, and infrastructure. One of the platform elements might be, for instance, a national set of standards that broadband providers must meet (speed and access) or face hefty fines. FOI, anti-dynasty, decriminalization of libel, federalization of spending authorities, anti-trust . . . all legitimate elements of the platform for consideration by the Executive Committee.

          2.5 Two-way communication by e-mail and texting, with central-out postings in Facebook, twitter, etc.

  2. edgar lores says:

    On a more serious note:

    1. That graphic on dynasty is shocking.
    1.1. We need to invent a new word for our democracy which, the article says, is 70% governed by dynasties. Dynastocracy? Dynastocrazy?

    2. The Internet has become the repository of man’s knowledge and wisdom but it is also his septic tank.

    2.1. Schools do have computers and allow students to go online. They have software to exclusively channel young minds to the brighter side of cyberspace, but the use of proxies and hacking is a reality. The darker side of cyberspace is always just one click away.

    2.2. The pressure of social media has had beneficial effects on politics here and everywhere. It has also had beneficial effects on social media itself. Like Rappler did broadcast the Senate hearing yesterday.

    2.3. The suggestions to harness its power to greater use are well met. Perhaps apart from suggestions of improvements in terms of usage, we should also address problems of access, such as: broadening the base of usage, increasing internet speeds, and decreasing the cost of access.

    2.4. We have seen that technology has extended Internet capabilities to devices of different form factors from the original personal computer. These are namely the tablet, the cellphone which in its latest transformation has become a phablet. The Google glass has not been widely adopted but pretty soon we will be talking to our wristwatches.

    2.5. How can we increase access to the Internet in the countryside so that the voters can vote intelligently? Low-cost tablets may well be the answer combined with wifi hotspots that are provided for free by the municipality.

    2.6. There are side-issues that impact the spread of digital literacy. For one, the energy crisis. For another, the substitution of virtual reality for the outside world. What are the consequences of encouraging our disconnection from the real world?

    2.7. For me, the consequences are that the tummy grows bigger, the heart beats slower, and the grass grows higher.

    • Joe America says:

      Wait until I get into the Binay dynasty in all its implications next week. It scares the Beelzebub out of me.

      2. So is real life; shit just happens faster on line.

      2.2 Rappler also included Nancy Binay quotes in the issues-based story, rather than run her mouth off under separate sensationalist headlines (the way did). Rappler read, they heeded, they improved.

      2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6 These would be secondary in importance to simply getting a political organization in place built on the technology and hardware that is out there now. Cell-phone texts would be a part of the communication network. It is considered an element of social media in the context of this effort to organize.

      • edgar lores says:

        I nominate Raissa to be the party’s candidate.

      • RHiro says:

        Firstly Joeam, Americans including most educational institutions did not teach political economy, simply because of the belief system in the U.S. that this was a Marxist concept.

        There are two definitions of political economy I am am aware of;

        1. The study of the anatomy of society, i.e. the class system.

        2. The study of power and wealth and its influence on the market…

        In the Philippines political economy we elect autocrats who are also part and parcel of our economic autocrats. In the Philippine context most people are peons. They are loyal either to their economic or political autocrats. Hence political parties are non-existent.

        Even amongst the police and military forces there also exists an autocracy that follows the political autocrats. Peon culture prevails…

        ”First, institutions of representation, such as political parties, parliaments, and electoral systems, are needed to elicit popular preferences and turn them into policy action. Second, democracy requires institutions of restraint, such as an independent judiciary and media, to uphold fundamental rights like freedom of speech and prevent governments from abusing their power. Representation without restraint – elections without the rule of law – is a recipe for the tyranny of the majority.” Dani Rodrik

        ”But another, more pernicious, part of the answer may lie in the strategies to which political leaders resort in order to get elected. A politician who represents the interests primarily of economic elites has to find other means of appealing to the masses. Such an alternative is provided by the politics of nationalism, sectarianism, and identity – a politics based on cultural values and symbolism rather than bread-and-butter interests. When politics is waged on these grounds, elections are won by those who are most successful at “priming” our latent cultural and psychological markers, not those who best represent our interests Dani Rodrik

        ”Karl Marx famously said that religion is “the opium of the people.” What he meant is that religious sentiment could obscure the material deprivations that workers and other exploited people experience in their daily lives.” Dani Rodrik


        You want to organize social media as a mass movement to effect political change…On economic policy alone what would the basis of unity be? What would the policy on free trade be? What would the policy be on regulating foreign capital? What would the policy be on regulating labor markets? Policy on bank secrecy law?

        Autocratic loyalties prevail and not philosophical or ideological differences on political prescriptions….

        • Joe America says:

          Well, you challenge at a level of economic prowess that I am unable to match. Or comprehend. My points are fairly simple: (1) there are ways to break through the dynastic control of political parties shown in the opening photo, and (2) social media, including texting, can be a political platform. Formulating specific policies would be the job of the forming group. As they would be working within the existing system, there would be no revolution or sharp change from what exists now, but I expect there would be a policy advocacy toward breaking dynastic control: FOI, anti-trust bill, anti-dynasty bill, decriminalizing libel, and other initiatives. I have not thought that far down the pike.

          To the extent that you believe these kinds of initiatives are fruitless or wrong-headed, I guess the question would have to be reversed to ask what kinds of initiatives you believe would be successful at upping the level of productivity and care-taking of people hereabouts.

          • R.Hiro says:

            To have a basis for discussion go to published report listed below – pages 47-70…

            March 2014 World Bank

            Destroying dynasties on both economic and political fronts require broad based support for the State. A popular president is a far cry from an effective one…

            • RHiro says:

              Click to access Philippine%20Economic%20Update%20March%202014.pdf

              Excerpts from above

              “The most crucial failure of Philippine development strategy
              lies in its employment record.”
              (Krugman et al. 1992)

              “A government that prioritizes jobs that empower the people and provide them with opportunities to rise above poverty” (excerpt
              from President Aquino’s “Social Contract” with the Filipino people)

              ”The central policy challenge facing the Philippines is how to accelerate inclusive growth the type that creates more and better jobs and reduces poverty. So far this has proven to be elusive, mainly because of the country’s long history of policy
              distortions that have slowed the growth of agriculture and manufacturing in the last six decades. Instead of rising agricultural productivity paving the way for the development
              of a vibrant labor-intensive manufacturing sector and subsequently of a high-skill services sector, the converse has taken place in the Philippines. Agricultural productivity
              has remained depressed, manufacturing has failed to grow sustainably, and a low-productivity, low-skill services sector has emerged as the dominant feature of the economy.Lack of competition in key sectors, insecurity of property rights, complex
              regulations, and severe underinvestment by the government and the private sector have led to this growth pattern, which is not the norm in the East Asia region. More importantly, this anomalous economic growth pattern has not provided good jobs to the
              majority of Filipinos and has led to a substantial outmigration of many of its best and brightest people.”

              ”The Aquino Government has demonstrated that it is not afraid to tackle vested interests in areas that had previously been too sensitive to reform.Several reforms have successfully started, notably in public financial management, tax policy and
              administration, anti-corruption, and social service delivery.”

              ”Many stakeholders agree that the current window of opportunity marks a critical juncture in the country’s history.As discussed in the previous section, the foundations needed for the country to achieve more inclusive growth are in place. However, the extractive nature of some of the country’s political and economic institutions, which Acemoglu and Robinson, in their book “Why Nations Fail,” define as institutions that undermine incentives and block opportunities in order to create wealth and opportunities for a narrow subset of the population (i.e., the elite), poses significant challenges to achieving lasting inclusive growth”

              • Joe America says:

                That is excellent. A key plank in the platform might be “to accelerate inclusive growth the type that creates more and better jobs and reduces poverty.”

                Flowing from that would likely be programs to build a big manufacturing base (seed with military/industrial work), improving agribusiness outputs, and continued tourism, service center, and financial growth. You probably have more good ideas.

                I see another plank as a concerted effort to build a “second Manila” in Mindanao, probably Davao, and a third in Cebu. Infrastructure now for growth later . . .

                Thanks for rising to the challenge.

          • vernon says:

            Hi Joe,

            Interesting piece, indeed.

            Social media has proven itself to be a potent political force for change. Cases in point were the incidents that took place during what the media then called Arab Spring movements that took place in countries like Egypt, Turkey and Iran. They were driven by Facebook, Twitter and Google. They all had positive results; even in Iran. Turkey remains a work in progress.

            What you have in mind is a more formal set up as compared to those that happened spontaneously and may take a lot of effort. On this, I agree; but then I go back to that much abused saying – “Rome was not built in a day.” This makes such a project worth seriously considering and an opportunity for Filipino businessmen clamouring for change to put their money where their mouths are.

            As a backgrounder let me do an instant replay. During the EDSA Revolution (the first and only one) there was a social media effort of sorts that dominated the airwaves in MetroManila. It was driven by a continuing radio broadcast that covered the revolution in favor of Cory Aquino and it received phone and handheld radio calls, relayed strategic information to pro-Aquino forces and played patriotic songs and prayers. This activity were run by priests (notably by the late Fr. James Reuter) and nuns and a handful of radio technician volunteers and used the DZRJ bandwidth and facilites. The late June Keithley was the anchor. Compared to today’s social sites it was crude, yet by definition it was a social media initiative. Talk about EDSA and Radyo Bandido comes to mind. If this happened before, what you have in mind doesn’t seem to be that far fetched.

            Let’s keep this worthy germ of an idea percolating.

            More power.


            • Joe America says:

              Hi, Vernon. Yes, it would take a significant commitment and a lot of work. But it is not exactly rocket science, either. It is mainly wordsmithing, and finding ways to chart an intelligent path. The spontaneous jabber is also a force, but it is one of convenience.

              Indeed, your thought that Filipino businessmen could put support behind it is a good one. I think of all the energy expended by leftists or the CBCP or others promoting their private causes . . . all because they can’t commit to someone else’s version of how to get to the same point. So it is a bit of a tricky minefield. (I inadvertently typed “mindfield” and that may be more accurate.) Maybe the next step is to mull over what organizations already exist who could field a separate initiative, or bend their own charter. PCIJ for instance. Or an established political party that is willing to give up on dynasties as their life blood, but are more rational than Bayan Muna. The charter can’t be inane sloganeering. It has to have substance, and mainstream attraction. The platform has to be good and fit a vision that is wholesome but practical.

  3. gerverg1885 says:

    Well, thanks Joe for that draft and the steps to implementation. That’s a good and fine example that people who are planning to introduce meaningful reforms to the nation’s chaotic political system can use to end those dynasties.

  4. gerverg1885 says:

    That’s the problem with so many here who wants to be identified as opposition, like this post on Facebook that calls itself ‘No to political dynasties. It is bashing the Binays right now but it only ends up on that one goal. It had not stated whether it plans to help in creating a nation free from its demons comprised of personalities whose main aim is to make themselves rich. It had no statement of any plan(s) to propose workable ideas to help make this nation more progressive after Pnoy’s continuing the reforms for good governance.
    It’s how things stand right now – politics here is still personality based and the mindset of the majority of the electorates had not budged from its original position. But your suggestions are well taken and would be the basis of my consultations with friends and some people who thinks like me – and you.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, the bashers are tree hopping, issue to issue, rather than pursuing a positive agenda based on principles and platform. One of the principles ought to be “unity through respect of diversity”. Men, women, young, old, Muslim, Catholic, city dweller, country dweller, professional, laborer. All on the same team.

  5. PI already has multi-parties that do not really represent the collective Filipino spirit. Before another one is created, people must be polled about their grievances.

    What better way to do it but by using the power of technology? I remember that when I was there a few years back, I noticed the absence of the constant cries of merienda peddlers. When I told someone about it, she produced a list of cell phone numbers and asked me what I want to eat. She then preceded to call the vendor and my merienda was home delivered in few minutes. I do not know the exact penetration of mobile devices in PI but in the local vicinities I visited they seem to be ubiquitous.

    In Africa with only about 5% mobile tecnolgy penetration, various ways are being devised to harness the power of mobile technology for social good ranging from healthcare monitoring, banking facilitation, to agriculture information dissemination. In Congo Republic, they put together a poll to gauge the sentiment of the masses using SMS. Here is the video about it:

    Something like it would be a good way in feeling the pulse of the Filino masses about variety of issues that they want resolved.

    • Whoa! Sorry, I need a spell checker but you got the gist….

      • Joe America says:

        Ahahaha, well ordinarily I provide editing services for minor misspellings, but yours are so classic I’ve got to leave them in.

        “tecnolgy” is my favorite, actually a more efficient improvement over the real word that, through regular usage, could become common.

        (The truth is I read the comment and didn’t even notice the errors until you mentioned it.) 🙂

    • Joe America says:

      Texting would be an important part of the way the proposed party would communicate with members. Your idea to survey the masses is excellent. We often just take for granted that jobs is the answer to all ills, and more pay, but there are undoubtedly issues that would become planks in the platform. Health care, getting rid of school fees, better transportation or policing. We don’t really know, do we? Good suggestion.

      • Juana Pilipinas says:

        I think that is the biggest of PI’s problems. No one really knows what the real issues are. Until they are known, we can’t possibly prioritize them or suggest solutions. They will remain unknown and most efforts will be futile until we find a way to reach out to the grassroots.

  6. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    Organizing Philippine religions as a force for good work.

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