When people are smarter than their government

Chinese survey ship “Zhanzian” works in Philippine waters. [Source: Ryan Martinson, on Twitter]

By JoeAm

People complain a lot about social media. I like the stuff myself. On Facebook, I can keep tabs with the life and adventures of my friends and acquaintances, know their activities, their successes, and their jokes. I can share my own.

Still, I don’t use FB for news. It’s unreliable and hard to verify. I block the trolls and trouble-makers there. It’s my house, after all.

I use Twitter to get wide-ranging “news and views”. It’s better than television, radio, or newspapers. Faster. More objective. Not so many commercials. And no obnoxious talking head shouting “TEEEEEEVEEEEEEEEE PATROLLLLLLLLLLL!” in my ear.

It has recently become apparent that Twitter moves faster than the Philippine government. The informed people on Twitter are a few hours or a few days ahead of government officials on a lot of matters. This makes Defense Secretary Lorenzana look incompetent, presidential Spokesperson Panelo look foolish, and President Duterte look dumb. It makes the PNP look brutal.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Locsin does use the power of Twitter. Some wish he wouldn’t.

You can see Twitter’s value when people know Chinese military ships are plowing through Philippine seas before the Secretary of Defense knows it. Or people realize that Chinese interests have purchased strategic islands before the newspapers pick it up. Often, people on Twitter know of disasters or killings before Cabinet secretaries know.

It is rare these days to see government taking or announcing proactive steps AHEAD of breaking problems.

Reactive. That is the Philippines. The Philippines has a government of secretaries walking around with their pants down.

We can witness this in their reactions. They delay, run around looking for verification, stall, wait to “confirm”. They claim they can only accept authoritative information . . . but Twitter fans use the same satellites others use or the same authoritative sources from other governments that are usually a few steps ahead of the Philippines.

Philippine officials invariably end up confirming what was reported on Twitter.

I came to enlightenment last week when Twitter followers informed the government about Chinese military and survey ships plying Philippine seas. Government officials initially reacted in ignorance. Deer in the headlights. When they discovered the Twitter information to be true, their responses were filled with excuses and rationalizations. “Only so much money after all.”

For sure, they had not pro-actively defended Philippine sovereignty.

Well, if the President’s communications staff were dedicated to GETTING DATA rather than ISSUING PROPAGANDA, maybe this would be different.

Why is Twitter so good at intelligence? What are some examples of the sources of real-time information available on Twitter?

  • The Chinese government, which issues statements that hit Twitter instantly. Like this response from the Chinese Embassy to Philippine Government’s proposal to relegate Chinese gambling companies to designated “hubs”: Remarks by Chinese Embassy Spokesperson on Issues of Chinese Citizens concerning Gambling in the Philippines. Other nations’ government agencies are also on Twitter. We can go direct to the same sources Philippine government officials would use.
  • Live feeds from journalists that take Twitter followers directly into the Hong Kong protests or American democratic debates or Philippine Senate hearings.
  • Private authorities such as Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) that track what is going on in the seas. I’ve mentioned before that I follow IndoPacific_SCS_Info (@IndoPac_Info) who follows primary sources on military engagements throughout Asia. He’s a trustworthy filter for me. One of his  sources is Ryan Martinson (@rdmartinson88) of the China Maritime Studies Institute. That’s how he, and I, and others knew about Chinese survey work in Philippine waters before government knew. (Or if government knew, they were “shy” about informing Philippine citizens.)
  • Victims and participants who livestream events . . . from another horrid slaughter of Filipinos to a green Rolls Royce wang-wanging itself across town to incidents of racial abuse.

So if you get the idea the Duterte government is reeling and reactive to events, rather than managing them, you are exactly right.

Managing events requires data. Information. Facts. Twitter followers are ahead of events. Government is behind. That’s why Panelo hems and haws and Lorenzana scurries off to confirm and Duterte is on his heels most news days.

Too often, government officials end up spinning tales and trying to ‘posture perfect’ to people who have more information than they have.

People have that fact in hand, too. They know for a FACT that they are being played for fools by government officials who have the capacity to be informed. But are not.

The people are smarter. With no tax-fattened budget, they are smarter.


44 Responses to “When people are smarter than their government”
  1. chemrock says:

    Joe, it’s an ‘A’ for originality of subject matter.

    I kind of thinking hmmm we need to consider a couple of points –
    – Twitter sure gets news out fast but it’s very personalised. So if one cocoons oneself to some favourite ‘source’ then one funnels in only one sided views inevitably.
    – Officialdom can’t react like us individuals to the latest twits. There are a host of issues to consider before any official reaction. Late reaction does not necessarily mean ignorance. But I concede a long delay in reaction signifies weakness in the leadership.

    Twitter is fine, so long as one doesn’t twit an anti Islamic or anti far left liberal comment. That stands a good chance of being killed by the algorithm. Send anti Trump twits if one wants to gain viral fame.

    Twitter is fine but it’s often from another source. Do you use apps like flipboard to filter to original sources for thw twits?

    • Two superb points. You are right, one can become a totally biased news collector, and government is penalized by process and authority. At the same time, I can’t help but think it is government that ought to be catching Chinese intruders and not citizens.

      I don’t use a filter like flipboard. I just have a list of people to follow who consistently raise relevant issues. One of them is Sec Locsin, so I do stay open minded. I also follow PCOO and the Senate which issue “the other side” a lot.

    • NHerrera says:

      Thanks chemrock for the comment on how not to listen too closely — without meaning to — to our own choir; and Joe for the current blog and your response to chem’s note.

      How to get the facts and use logic is indeed the imperative of our times. Even on such topic as Climate Change; and the mundane act of drinking coffee.

    • karlgarcia says:

      I tried getting from all sides when I started twitter but I eventually blocked trollish,thugish,gutterish and some other ishes.
      Excellent points Chem.

  2. karlgarcia says:

    I notice that Locsin listens to reason sometimes.
    His exchange with Congressman Ruffy Biazon, made him change his position on waiting for what the milirary has to say when the DFA can decide on its own.

    • Yes, good observation. His perspectives are sometimes enlightening as well. Today he explained why Chinese workers are being placed in enclaves (because rich Filipino landowners want the development) and noted that he prefers the vague Mutual Defense Treaty because a document with specific triggers would more easily lead to war. He used Twitter today to summon US assistance to try to locate a downed airplane pilot. He also used it to announce new DFA policy banning all marine surveys within Philippine waters, inclusive of China.

  3. “(Or if government knew, they were “shy” about informing Philippine citizens.)”

    the US Navy is following China very closely in that region, Joe. Anything relevant to share, like the stuff above, they’ll certainly share. Which means the US embassy must be keeping DU30 and his administration (especially the Philippine Navy) abreast both in the South China sea and the Philippine sea.

    Now being “shy” informing the general public is common among all gov’ts in the world. This is where the press comes to play. But you’ve already written about how the press sucks over there, so nothing new here.

    Question is, if there are 3rd parties whether Filipino or non-Filipino , like Green Peace, or other NGO watch dogs, that actually have eyes on Chinese vessels anywhere near the Philippines, or even just private Filipino planes/helicopters taking a looksy.

    All Filipinos have smart phones now, why not write a blog about taking pictures of Chinese vessels and uploading onto Twitter??? Get Filipinos involved. I won’t be surprised if some enterprising Mamasan is actually chartering her girls

    to these Chinese vessels out at sea, to service these Chinese sailors. Get these girls to take pictures. 😉 Leverage Filipino strengths.

    • karlgarcia says:

      You pimp.

    • karlgarcia says:

      Legalizing prostitution won’t work here, textbook cases are legalizing gambling. The crime lords have less crimes to lord over.

      • karl,

        I don’t mean pictures of them doing the dirrrty, but pictures of these Chinese vessels, and plot them via GPS. The more data points the better, plus actual ship board photos. That is pure intel that can be used. What two consenting adults do in private, is not anyone’s concern— especially 5-10 nautical miles away from shore. 😉

        • kasambahay says:

          it’s like airport security, I think, may maritime security din po ang chinese ships and some of them are high tech and state of the art. the moment mamasan’s girls are the gangway, the chinese already know all there is to know about them. may facial recognition sila, at may scanners din po, looking for hidden drugs, guns and smartphones, and will ping accordingly. those poor girls wont be able to take pictures of any kind but very likely to lose their own kidneys, lol! kidney is highly priced in china and sell very well in the black market. and the girls could well be sold off to russian mafia, servicing the sex trade of the continent of europe. forced to work until they drop dead.

          • kasambahay says:

            if the girls want to do the mata hari, no need for them to board chinese vessels. they can de-sexed the chinese that are already here, those tourists but not really tourists. at sa amin sa probinsya lang po, poisoning is skill. we poison strangers, lol!

            • The ship and what’s on it and where it is, etc. etc. is something readily visible. The ship.

              Some Chinese dude going to a casa or bar, or massage, or KTV, or call-girl in hotel, etc. will just be some naked Chinese. These street girls cannot play Mata Hari, they are mostly high school drop out, some are no-read/no-write. after they bump uglies, they are done.

              But a Chinese vessel, even if they can’t bring their phones on board, but maybe a selfie or two while still on the bangka approaching the chinese vessel, then after they bump uglies on board, take another angle shot as they leave all from the bangka.

              to re-cap:

              1. Naked Chinese no value

              2. Chinese vessel medium to high value

              • kasambahay says:

                the pride of the chinese navy did port visit sa pinas and had open day. all welcome on board. displayed were modern armaments. I heard electronic jammers were busy, may selective black spots where no cameras can work.

                I think, it would be shame when the defense of the nation is left to less educated good time girls to administer. while the highly educated and highly paid military not only sleep with china but snore with china.

              • “I think, it would be shame when the defense of the nation is left to less educated good time girls to administer. while the highly educated and highly paid military not only sleep with china but snore with china.”

                You’ve caught the irony. 🙂

          • Trust me, there’s no demand for Asian prostitutes in Europe, slavic women have job security there. Where you can see both Slavs and Asians working is in the Middle East, and easily the price difference is wide— Slav women are in the demand; Asians will be priced much lower.

            But I do agree with you that Chinese Navy ships will be tightly watched, but not all Chinese ships plying the waters over there will be Chinese Navy, there will be Chinese non-military ships too. Even in US Navy ships, you’ll have (now and then, but not often…) lax security where command lets working women go up, US Navy have civilian run ships for logistics and support.

            My point, it don’t hurt to try. Selfies!!!

    • I think you have this blog confused with the CIA. If you want to know about China’s ship activities, you might choose to follow Ryan Martinson on Twitter.

      • I think this Martinson fella, would agree that the more eyes the better, thus give fishermen smart phones and enlist these working girls, who’ll surely have smart phones too. And put out there, there are divers out there, island hopping vacationers, put it out there, take pictures of these Chinese ships.

        The more eyes the better.

  4. kasambahay says:

    it’s a long road to tipperary and the military is happy to plod along. the sec of national defense is sticking close to his national (duterte) and fast turning to be abject slowpoke na, pardon the expression po. it’s never nice to call a human being abject slowpoke. it’s mortal sin! our father who art in heaven. . . can you please release the slowpoke of fugue!

    it’s the same abject albeit tedious road of verification he’s following most of the time, his fav animal must be a weary turtle, if only it was sonic turtle, he could have been on top of things soonest. playing the quintessential abject coconut with his national, them being the two coconuts in the merry pod, must be the verbal agreement he was subject to. not to follow the yellow brick road and destination sooner! yellow kasi, lol!

    okay, there must be faster broadband connection for the sec of defense to wallow. and if he wants to update his info, be alerted soonest about the chinese menace concentrically getting ever closer to home, he can tell his trusted sources to put him in their mailing list and be prioritised! or he’ll come knocking on their door with unsolicited gift they would not want to receive, lol!

    the sec of defense is only a text away after all. his trusted sources, the same trusted sources netizens have easy access to, would be quite happy to oblige him.

    but if the sec is just quite happy to plod along and verify to verify the verify, god almighty! please release the sec of fugue, lol!

  5. Grace Sapuay says:

    This government is either dumb or paid so Chinese shops can do whatever they want with Phippines’ resources. I saw 2 Chinese ships near Pagudpud. Whatever they are doing there I’m sure is illegal and no one to police our waters. Either our CG is asleep or too little staff to man our waters.

  6. Grace Sapuay says:

    This government is either dumb or paid so Chinese ships can do whatever they want with Phippines’ marine resources. I saw 2 Chinese ships near Pagudpud. Whatever they are doing there I’m sure is illegal and no one to police our waters. Either our CG is asleep or too little staff to man our waters.

    • chemrock says:

      Guys, don’t believe Joe here.
      Duterte always has a foreign intel somewhere feeding him info. Remember where he got the info on Trillanes foreign bank accounts. I mean bank accounts are such a tiny thing. Surely huge Chinese vessels are no problemo for his foreign intel friends to spot.
      I bet you Duterte has a matrix on Chinese vessels, he’s just waiting for the right moment to show his countrymen.

      • Sup says:

        Duterte don’t care because the Philippines is actually USA?…From another site
        ” YES, the ‘Philippine Islands’ are still technically and legally American Soil. The USA illegitimately attacked the Spanish Realm and out of extortion forced Spain to sell, among other lands, the Philippine Archipelago to the USA. Now if you examine the actual verbage of what was done, the land was purchased with American citizen money and was then the purchased property of the USA. Now how does this play out. Since it was adopted in as American Soil, it became well American soil and sovereign to the USA people. By American law, sovereign soil can not be released from the people without that being ratified by the then 48 States of the Union. While the American Congress can and the President Emancipate a group of people and in this case Congress Emancipated the people living in the islands, Congress could vote on relinquishing the land for the relinquish must be ratified by the 48 states. That ratification was never done.”

      • kasambahay says:

        chemrock, yan din po ang paniwala ko. duterte know all there is to know about chinese ships circling the trespass at may matrix siya. lorenzana knows for sure, he is always within arm’s length of duterte and was there present sa the verbal agreement. and if lorenzana has some noggings left in his cabeza de calvo, he should have spycammed the agreement upang may future point of reference siya.

        mahirap talagang paniwalaan na military man si lorenzana and yet got no tricks up his sleeves siya. I believe he did not just rise up the rank and become general just for nodding his head and pretending to be dumb.

    • “I saw 2 Chinese ships near Pagudpud. “

      Grace, did you take pictures??? if on a smart phone or one of ’em newer digital cameras, the GPS location will automatically register, so if you upload it to sites like Google photos, you’ll get a map with said photos.

      If not, next time take pictures. Numbers and names, then pan out get the whole ship. if they have weird looking machines on board, focus on that too zoom in. Take lots of pictures!!!

      • Yeah, but do it from the bushes because they’re probably taking pictures, too.

        • Yes, a healthy dose of paranoia is good, but courage is what ‘s called for now. Stand proud, and take that picture. You’re a Filipino, Grace, you belong there; they are Chinese, they don’t belong there.

          Take your pictures with pride, and stand up, don’t hide behind bushes. Stand up!!! Stick the middle finger at them.

        • kasambahay says:

          I hope grace is being careful, the chinese already have drone technology and have eyes in the sky. the problem might be up in the sky, scanning, watching, looking, observing and listening on the sly, unseen by human eyes. the ships are probly home base, drones need to be serviced, oiled and worn parts replaced.

          • Is that stopping Hong Kong protestors ??? More eyes are watching them, it’s not stopping them— it’s the opposite, they are watching them back and posting their videos and photos for the world to see. Because they know it’s time to stand up, not cower. Just becuz DU30 cowers doesn’t mean every Filipino has to.

            Stand up, and take your pics!!! Selfies!!!

            • kasambahay says:

              forewarned is forearmed, be aware. know the enemy and act accordingly.

              • … and follow what the Hong Kong kids are doing right now.

              • The blog is a place for discussion, and certainly the Hong Kong protests are a significant historical moment. Do take care not to advocate for something similar in the Philippines as that would take the blog in a direction I cannot permit it to go.

              • Haha… sure thing, Joe— just in spirit then, no action.

                Hong Kong, keep doing what you’re doing, you’re looking French!!! 😉

                p.s.– Joe, the prize here is Taiwan, not the Philippines. NH, is right. It’s a game of Go , China wants Taiwan it’s gonna surround it, then atari.

  7. “A lot of anti-divorce people seem to think marriage is a pollyanna place where if we pray or wish hard enough then the spouse won’t get beat up anymore. I think these people need education because life doesn’t work that way real time. I mean, ask psychologists, eh? Not lola.”


    there needs to be an anti-marriage movement there and in general across the globe. Give the same tax exemptions to unmarried couples as well as non-married individuals, in addition to other state benefits promoting the institution of marriage.

    W/out marriage there would be no need for divorce !!! Sure if people still wanna get married , do it in church, but the state does not get to confer benefits promoting married folks and not to unmarried folks, that’s discrimination!!! arguably also a means of control and domestication of peoples’ aspirations.

    Marriage is oppression. both internally (individual level) and externally (state/church/community level).

  8. https://joeam.com/2019/08/12/when-people-are-smarter-than-their-government/#comment-301872

    Agree with LCPL_X that the prize is Taiwan. The Philippines might play a similar role to that Belgium played for the Germans in World War I, a hapless staging ground.

    Plus consider that the Chinese are copying most things done to them by colonial powers once. One might be the Portuguese strategy of not securing territory, just harbors – maybe even islands. Another might be the foreigner-only zones in Shanghai of old, replicated with POGOs today. The colonial powers from Portugal to England and Germany did not care about Chinese hinterlands, only for treaty ports, the oldest was Macau, HK and Tsingtao (the German treaty port left the beer as its legacy) came later. Japanese did go more territorial, invading Manchuria, so possibly Ilocos as a glorious Chinese vassal state, securing Taiwan, and Davao too, to keep watch on Indonesia? Why even bother with places like Metro Manila which they would have to fix, which is a HARD job.

    • Exactly, Ireneo! and they have to be careful now in HK because HK isn’t Philippines (Xi has enlisted Jackie Chan, once he enlists the cast of Mulan live action film, game over), they’re smart, and they are worldly. Staging ground is about right. but yeah, any bigger moves to be made won’t happen until China consolidates Taiwan.

      Take Taiwan you take the world, or at least half of it. 😉

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