A guide to social media during Philippine election season

It’s election season again. It is a colorful, enervating, annoying, tiring, and confusing time for every Filipino. Everyday, the news is all about candidates and campaigns and scandals and intrigues, with substantial news like campaign platforms buried or lamentably unreported.

Social media is an interesting addition to the quagmire that is election season. Its simplicity, ubiquity, and pervasiveness can add more to the noise. Every news organization utilize social media to spread the news and gather feedback. Every campaign team use social media for propaganda. And the netizen is left to his wits to sort through the mess.

Social media is best suited for propaganda. All it takes is a catchy post, a funny image, and a believable story for a propaganda item to be liked and shared. Propaganda expressed through memes are mabenta to the masa. All propagandists need is basic knowledge of social engineering to make a propaganda viral.

Unfortunately, black and negative propaganda are almost as indistinguishable as news. Yes, sometimes news are written as propaganda. That’s how hoaxes are usually written – as news. I am sure you have relatives who had unwittingly shared something that turned out to be false. Expect a lot of those during election season.

First, it is best to know that black propaganda is not as we know it.  There is a difference with black propaganda with negative propaganda ( which is sometimes known as mudslinging). When one side claims that the other side said something false and attributes it to someone, that is black propaganda. Or when a political party puts out information and ascribes it to the opposing party, with the end goal of humiliating or putting the opposite party in bad light, that’s black propaganda. For example:

There’s gray propaganda: source is unknown and accuracy is questionable. White propaganda is clearly sourced, clearly attributable to someone, and purpose is clear. This tweet is an example of gray propaganda:

I am not sure if this is news or propaganda: prop.

Once passed, the new salary standardization law will not benefit the incumbent elected officials.  So to say that Aquino’s getting a Php280000 increase is just plain wrong. The goal of this tweet is to either make you click the link so that you’d read the article (therefore increasing page view and hopefully will lead to earnings) or make you angry and retweet. This is what I call meme-ification of news (see The meme-ification of news). It can also be negative propaganda, but it’s up to you to decide.

Here is a good primer on different kinds of propaganda: The Difference Between Gray, White And Black Propaganda.

So, you saw something on Facebook. It’s too good to be true. So how do you check if it’s true or not?

Check who shared it. If it is shared by a news organization, it might be true. Might, because what was shared can be false, too. A social media manager is human, after all. And apparently you can manipulate the title of a news post when you share it on Facebook, like this one:


The PDI report is titled ‘Wrong to fault Mar for Yolanda housing’. When you click on that link, the title is way different. So if the post purports to be from a news org but shared by someone not connected to that news org, check and read. The above example is an obvious negative propaganda.

If it is shared by an organization, and the post makes a claim, you might have to search online for verification. For example, this one:

You can check the Senate web site to see all the bills filed by Senator Marcos. If you don’t find any bill pertaining to contractualization, then the Akbayan claim must be true.

If it is posted by a relative or friend, check if they really posted it. Did they take the photo themselves? Did they really experience what they described? Even here you have to be careful. Take this one, for example.

Mag ingat po sa vigil taxi na nasa pic ang plate no. Kagabi lng oct.29 muntik ng madali ang kasamahan kung seaman…

Posted by Julius Niel Habana on Thursday, October 29, 2015

The problem here is that we can never verify this experience. First, he said he reported the taxi and taxi driver to LTFRB, but the LTFRB has just absolved the taxi driver and cited the Facebook user cited above in contempt (see Seaman in hot water over ‘tanim-bala’ claim on Facebook). Second, he claimed he reported the matter to the police, but he failed to state if he did by calling the hotline or going to a police station. Whether it really happened or not, we cannot tell.

So you saw one infographic/meme being shared. How to check if black propaganda or not? Check the source. Check if quote is attributed. Check if you can find the source and verify the claim yourself. If the source is dubious, or source not stated, beware.

If the source is a politician, beware. Period.

I subscribe to a simple code of ethics when I am online: THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK. I suggest all netizens to do the same. So if you found something that you want to share, think first before clicking that Share/Retweet button.


The meme-ification of news

Earlier today, Rappler issued the tweet above. There was some minor issues yesterday when Rappler tweeted an image with a quote from Mar Roxas, which, according to supporters, were taken out of context. It is not my intent to argue about whether the quote as shown and understood was taken out of context. What was surprising was the poisonous and toxic reaction AGAINST the Rappler apology. It is very rare for a news outfit to apologize for an editorial decision. For decent broadsheets, they usually publish errata but those are almost always never published on the front page; they usually place errata on the inner pages, and sometimes, in small font. Some broadsheets even have internal ombudsmen where readers can complain about news reports. But never has any organization apologized in such an upfront manner, and for that Rappler should be commended.

The detractors of Roxas, as expected, zeroed in on the apology, alleging that Roxas and/or the Aquino III administration twisted arms so that Rappler would apologize. In an election season, that would be tantamount to suicide. No news organization with respectable reputation would allow itself to be censored, and such actions would only cement the resolve of the target news outfit to continue reporting. Nothing ignites the imagination of a David fighting a Goliath. Also, Rappler said it was an editorial decision to apologize, and I take it as it is.

The problem stems from the tendency of netizens to pay attention to memes instead of reading. Nothing attracts the attention of people with short attention span than a spiffy graphic with pithy text. And with Twitter and its character limitation and again the tendency of people with short attention spans to not click, you need to express in 140 characters what you need readers to understand. To somehow overcome the character limit, social media managers use graphics to show more information, and hopefully entice readers to click on the link.

It’s plain social engineering. You want page views and impressions, so you design your social media post so that people will click on your link and hopefully read your long post/news report. With shrinking bottomlines, news orgs now have social media teams to design their social media posts to earn page views and clicks, which will hopefully lead to ad clicks.

Here is a good example: P3.8-B MRT deal awmisleadarded without public bidding. By reading that title alone, you might cry “ANOMALY!” But if you read the content it states that there were previous failed biddings, and the procurement law allows the government to negotiate a contract without bidding due to emergency and failure of bidding. You have to read the news otherwise you will be misled.

With the limits of social media, news orgs have to adapt. In the process, something has to give. And that is context.

The problem is simple. Netizens do not really like to click links. If they agree with what they had seen (graphics) or read (tweet), they’d automatically share without reading the news. If they are rankled by what they had read/seen, they’d automatically share with rage-filled texts of their own. Things can be taken out of context – what was quoted can be incendiary but might actually be benign if the story is read.

It’s the nature of the Internet beast, and the adage “Think before you click” is relevant more than ever. But based on what’s happening, we’re quite trigger happy. Or should I say button click happy?

And with a loooooong election season, expect more #MeltdownCity moments, all because someone made a rather controversial tweet without context, and netizens react with such fury that even barbarians would stay away. Brace yourselves.


Magtanim (ng bala) ay di biro

It’s been (insert adjective here) Halloween for Filipinos.

The ghost that haunted the country is known as “tanim-bala.” Basically, it’s a way for extortionist to forcibly take money from travelers by planting bullets into their bags/luggages to make it appear that the bullet has been there before inspection. The governing law regarding unauthorized carry of live ammunition is Republic Act 10591 (full text), and the punishment is rather severe. Scammers take advantage of the law and the fact that the victim might miss his or her flight.

The netizen reaction was negative, and rightly so. But it went beyond the usual outrage. It went viral, like a frenzy prior to an orgy, to the point that foreign news outfits reported on the issue. See Airport Security in the Philippines Have Been Putting Bullets in Luggage to Extort PassengersPhilippine legislators angered by Manila ‘bullet scam’“Airport officials in the Philippines are suspected of planting bullets in passengers’ luggage”.

Sonny Coloma downplayed the issue (see Palace downplays ‘laglag-bala’: Put issues in proper context), and it only added lubricant to the orgy.

In a press conference, Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Jun Abaya,  Office for Transportation Security Administrator Roland Recomono, Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Angel Honrado, and PNP Aviation Security Group Chief Francisco Balagtas presented relevant data on number of incidents of ammunition detected and cases filed. (Read the full transcript here.)

The data shows that, relative to the number of passengers who flew out of NAIA, the total number of  cases is only 0.008%, making Abaya state that “it appears that cases have been blown out of proportion.”  Abaya took pains to state that despite the small number, “a single case of any passenger wrongly charged, extorted upon, victimized by planting, unjustly charged in court, is unjust.”

Most of the media reports highlighted the “blown out of proportion” bit but not the “unjust” part. See this Inquirer report (Abaya downplays bullet scam but asks lawmakers to review law), Philippine Star (Abaya: Only .004% of travelers nabbed), ABS-CBN News (No NAIA syndicate behind ‘tanim bala’: Abaya).

Most of the netizens reacted negatively to the presented data. The presentation, netizens said, is just a way of belittling and downplaying the issue. Some strident netizens even asserted that contextualizing through data just shows that the government is callous and insensitive.

All that without even taking a minute to analyze the data.

The data was presented because the outrageous outrage online claimed the tanim-bala scam is widespread and prevalent. There are only 3 or 4 cases wherein victims legally complained of extortion and declared they are victims of tanim-bala (previously called laglag-bala). See American nabbed for carrying a bullet at Naia seeks new probeJapanese, OFW arrested at NAIA for bullets in baghttp://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/538896/news/metro/4-naia-x-ray-screeners-suspended-over-alleged-laglag-bala-extortion-activities (also shows that the government acted by suspending screeners, contrary to perception that no actions were taken), and Traveler tells how ‘bala’ works. (ABS-CBN has a list but the Japanese admitted owning the bullets so it’s not a tanim bala case. See LIST: Passengers allegedly victimized by ‘tanim-bala’.)

Everyone of my generation know who Kuya Bodjie is. And his tweet days ago is very relevant and very true:



So. Because data isn’t sexy and “irrelavant” to most people, the goal post has been moved.

Now the netizens are crying “Callous!” “Insensitive!” Like the people when Pontius Pilate presented persons to be let go.

Has the government not done anything at all? OTS says they’ve changed procedure. Screeners won’t touch your bags. They will take pictures/snap shot of the x-ray. Bag will only be opened by passenger in the presence of lawyer/third party or OTS supervisor.

For those cases of extortion, screeners involved were relieved (as due process dictates) and are being investigated. NBI is already involved in the investigation.

Netizens are not impressed. They were calling for heads to roll, like people chose Bar… OK never mind. Bongbong Marcos told the Palace by the Pasig to sack the NAIA GM (Marcos: NAIA chief accountable on Tanim Bala). The senator and the people betray gross ignorance of the organizational structure and airport operations. All the cases involved x-ray screeners, who are all under OTS. MIAA is only involved in management of the airport and is no way involved in security screening.

While Senators Grace Poe, Bongbong Marcos, and Ralph Recto called for investigations, Senator Bam Aquino and Representative Leni Robredo filed bills to decrimininalize carrying limited amount of bullets (see Leni Robredo Files Measure vs ‘Tanim Bala’ GangRobredo wants to decriminalize possession of bullet). While no one called the calls made by the 3 senators as grandstanding, the Aquino and Robredo bills are not yet even available online as of this writing yet the idea is already being criticized. People did not get the brilliance of the filing of bills.

Poe, Marcos, and Recto called for an investigation “in aid of legislation,” hopefully with the end goal of amending or drafting a new law. The cynical me says ASA KA PA. Aquino and Robredo filed bills. And if you know the legislative process, you know that committees will conduct hearings about the proposed bills. You already have the end goal, and you only need to refine it by conducting hearings and investigation. But that brilliance is lost on many.

Again, I refer you to Kuya Bodjie’s tweet.

So in the end, we Filipinos created a fire out of farts started by friction from all that orgiastic rage, and then the world noticed, and we wept that the world noticed. We shot ourselves in the foot but we pretend there’s no wound.

What should Abaya and others do? Aside from what they had said, to build trust and establish accountability they should:

  • Give a timeline for each action.
  • Identify persons who will complete such task.
  • State the expected results and how to determine success or failure.
  • Specify how to hold government people accountable.

Citizens, for their part, should:

  • Report all violators of the law immediately, specially if victimized by unscrupulous people at the airport. Nope, making a Facebook post is not reporting.
  • Stop adding to the problem by posting unverified social media posts and sharing incendiary memes. Humor is OK but if memes make untrue assertions in guise of humor, they are not helping.
  • Know your rights. Know the process during screening at the airport. Arrive way ahead of your scheduled departure time.

It’s time for rationality to return and decency to govern our discussion of the topic. Let us let the government do its job, bring justice for the victims and jail the guilty. Netizens should be more circumspect of what they post and share, but should also remain vigilant and call the government to task if it fails to clean up its act.


The big losers


Now that the grand circus that is Philippine elections is over, we know who won and who lost. Who are the big losers in this election?

1. The Enriles – The United Nationalist Alliance (or UNA) is composed of so-called three kingmakers – Vice President Jejomar Binay Sr., Senator Juan Ponce Enrile Sr., and former President Joseph Estrada Sr. Each of the kingmakers fielded their children in this year’s Senate race – Binay’s daughter, Nancy; Enrile’s son, Jack; and Erap’s son JV. We all know that Nancy and JV won, but Jack didn’t make it.

Framing this in terms of 2016, Enrile will have a hard time spending his political capital. This election proves that his name is not enough to bring his son to the Senate (though the negative propaganda against Jack and the Senate budget scandal last December may have helped cost him a Senate seat), and so his political capital might not be enough to influence the 2016 elections. It is now important for Enrile Senior to retain his position as Senate President in order to increase his political capital. Sure, he can make sure he’s relevant as leader of opposition, but with so many senators with political ambitions, he has to fight 22 of them – including the children of his pragmatic allies Binay and Erap.

As for Jack: he has a lot of options at this point. He can return to the House by 2016, or take another shot at the Senate, or run for governor of Cagayan. The House is the safest bet.

(Enrile has resigned as Senate President – a day before Congress adjourns sine die).

2. The Liberal Party – As much as most media people and pundits call this election as a victory for Team PNoy, I have to disagree a wee bit and call this a loss for the Liberal Party.

The 2010 elections was probably the first elections since 1986 where no major coalitions were formed to carry candidates. Each of the major political parties at that time fielded their own candidates on national level. This time, two major coalitions were formed to battle for 12 Senate seats. The Aquino Administration framed this election as a referendum on the current administration, banking on the unprecedented popularity of the President. The field of candidates was so thin that neither of the two coalitions could form a complete slate – both had “guest candidates.” However, due to pressure on both sides, the guest candidates were forced to exclusively join Team PNoy, while UNA had to make do with 9 candidates.

In the Team PNoy coalition, three candidates came from the Liberal Party, and only one made it to the winner’s list (all the Nacionalistas in Team PNoy won, BTW). As the majority party this is a blow to the Liberals. Bam Aquino will join Franklin Drilon, Ralph Recto, and Teofisto Guingona III as the Senate, making 4 Liberals – definitely not enough to gain the leadership without coalescing with other parties. As these coalitions tend to be fragile, the Liberals cannot afford to antagonize its partners or else it loses control of the Senate.

If the NP decides to field a candidate for president in 2016, I don’t expect the current coalition to last.

3. Mar Roxas – While LP retains majority of the House, and its coalition about to take control of the Senate, Binay has one advantage against Roxas – Binay has made his daughter win. This election validates that the Binay brand is bankable and durable, and his grassroots network can deliver.

Roxas, on the other hand, seems to be drifting. He has nothing to show in his stint at the DOTC, and his performance at DILG lackluster. He tends to be slow, indecisive, and too careful, hence after three years all infra projects under DOTC have yet to be started. If this continue, and Binay becomes more aggressive, Roxas can kiss 2016 goodbye.

4. Isko Moreno and the city of Manila – Isko scored a landslide win against Lou Veloso for the post of Manila’s vice mayor, so why is he a big loser? Because once again he will have to break with the would-be incumbent mayor in order to fulfill his ambition to be mayor of Manila. Why? What made him think Joseph Estrada will honor his word that he will only serve one term? This, coming from someone who promised never to run again for any public office only to run twice? Erap can either run again or field one of his children (some are already salivating on the idea of Jake Ejercito as mayor of Manila).

The city of Manila is the biggest loser here, because it now has a convicted plunderer as mayor. Erap may be able to improve the physical condition of the city, but a single term will not have any long term effect on the development of the city. If Erap is seeking redemption, he did so at the expense of the city. If he is really sincere, then he has no choice but to seek reelection and continue with his plans to make Manila a great city. This convinces me that Moreno has no choice but to do to Erap what he did to Fred Lim. I wish both of them luck.

5. Echiverri and the city of Caloocan – It seems that any attempt to establish a dynasty in Caloocan always fails. Rey Malonzo tried it years ago, fielding his common law wife and his son for mayor and councilor, respectively, while he ran for a House seat. All of them lost.

Then Recom Echiverri tried to build a dynasty by making his son RJ run as congressman – RJ lost. And as Recom’s term limit came, he made RJ run as mayor this year. RJ lost again. Recom will return to the House to represent the first district.

Echiverri must be so pissed off. After Oca Malapitan was proclaimed incoming mayor, all the blue boys (the Reformed Department of Public Safety and Traffic Management) are gone from the streets of Caloocan, as if telling the residents of Caloocan that they made the wrong choice. Now the residents of Caloocan have to pay the price – just look what a mess of a traffic jam is Rizal Avenue Extension from 2nd Avenue up to Monumento. Temporary vengeance, but a cruel one.


Just show us the numbers, CBCP


(image from here)

In a recent SWS survey, 9% of the respondents said they sometimes think of leaving the Catholic Church; that means 1 out of 11 Filipino Catholics thought of leaving. Of course, the Catholic hierarchy is scandalized. The survey result is questionable! The churches are always full! The government is behind this survey!

Funny thing is, the survey statement that the respondents were asked to react to is “Sometimes I think I might leave the Catholic Church.” But then again, in the eyes of a pastor, 1 out of 11 is large enough number to cause worry.

A true pastor would ask why, investigate, talk to parishioners, and implement programs so that people won’t leave. Unfortunately, the hierarchy has chosen to live in denial.

The best way to refute the survey result is to bring out data. Unfortunately, what Peachy Yamsuan said were generalized information, like:

“The Diocese of Imus has more new parishes created in the past 10 years or so… which begs the question, why create parishes if the number of Mass-goers is dwindling?”

How many parishes were created in the Diocese of Imus in the past 10 years? We don’t know.

There is a way to rebut the statement that the Churches are full.

Let’s take the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. According to its web site, there are around 900,000 inhabitants in the archdiocese, 90% of whom are Catholics (around 810,000). There are 30 parish churches, and around 67 priests (including retired ones). Assuming all parishes have equal number of parishioners, that means in Lingayen-Dagupan, there are around 27,000 parishioners to a parish. A priest has to minister to around 12,000 parishioners.

No wonder the churches are full. (And the hierarchy being disingenuous.)

Nine percent of 810,000 is 72,900; assume that 72,900 is equally spread in the diocese, that makes 2,430 parishioners who have thoughts of leaving the Church. Assuming that all of the 2,430 decided to leave, it’s a negligible amount.

No wonder the bishops are in disbelief.

How many parishes will be created in the near future? How many seminarians will be ordained as priests in the future? These numbers are important, but the Church will not give us these information. And these official, verifiable numbers will help the Church show that it is going strong. Just show us the numbers, dear bishops.

Solita Monsod is right – the Church should stop playing ostrich (BTW read it for she has better numbers than I do). Instead of trumpeting numbers, the Church has to address the fact that members of its flock are thinking of leaving.

As for me, the reason people are thinking of leaving is that the clergy has become politicized. I know someone who has decided to leave the Church. The straw that broke the camel’s back? The Church’s use of the pulpit to denounce the RH law and its proponents. God knows how many Catholics like her have already made the decision to leave. Reports of dioceses calling pro-RH candidates as Team Patay, and a lay group forming the so called White Vote, will not help the Church retain its followers.

There are more reasons, and they deserve a separate discussion. Just to name a few: disgust over liturgical decay; resistance to top-down, centralized governance; Church doctrine that are out of touch with reality (contraception, divorce, same-sex marriage, ordination of women, optional celibacy).


Why I am not voting for Nancy Binay


No one questions Nancy Binay’s qualification to run as a senator. The question is whether Binay is qualified to be a senator. That single question must have hurt Nancy Binay so badly that her only retort is for her critics to file a disqualification case against her in Comelec. If this is the quality of thinking that she is bringing to the table, then as voters it is our duty to refuse her offering by not voting for her this May.

An employer, in seeking a new employee, conducts due diligence by investigating the background of the prospective employee. It is the same for us voters.

Her resume is unimpressive. She has no experience in private and public enterprise that can show she can handle the job of a senator. Her only exposure in government is being her father, Jejomar Binay’s, personal assistant. In terms of experience, it would have been logical if Binay fielded his other, more experienced children Junjun and Abigail. (Then again, as I have said before, Nancy’s campaign is dry run for her father’s 2016 bid for the presidency.) Heck, a three-term councilor would have been more than qualified compared to Nancy.

If an employer considers a candidate even if the resume is unimpressive, the employer may interview the applicant. For us voters, one way we can learn about a candidate’s thoughts, plans, and vision is by watching him speak in a debate or a forum. Unfortunately, Nancy Binay would not indulge us. Risa Hontiveros, one of the better candidates with something to show in her government work, said she is ready to exchange opinions with Binay in a debate; Binay chose to campaign instead, she just doesn’t have time, she said. Yes, it is like a job applicant telling the employer to shove it up his ass.

Her obstinate refusal to debate and her ominous absence in TV forums are, for me, signs that she is afraid that her unfitness to be a senator would show. The irony here is that a senator must be ready to engage in a debate in the Senate floor, and here we have a candidate who wants to be a senator but is afraid of engaging in a debate! It’s like a cadet aspiring to be a soldier but afraid to shoot a gun.

Why I am not voting for Nancy Binay? One, she is not qualified to be a senator since she doesn’t have the experience that will show she can handle the task. Two, she refuses to share to us her platform and vision, and refuses to engage with other candidates in a debate.

Third, her stand on some issues are not compatible with mine:

* She is against the RH law, her objection being of budgetary concerns:

“I have an issue with the budgetary requirements of the bill, the budget to buy contraceptives. A 4-year-old child died of meningococcemia which is preventable through immunization. Why can’t we allot a bigger budget for immunization, day care centers?”

Which only shows her ignorance of law making, because if that’s her concern, the answer to her question is to increase the Department of Health’s budget on immunization. Besides, most of the functions of the DOH are already devolved to the local government units. She should ask her brother Junjun and her sister Abigail – they should know.

* She sees nothing wrong with political dynasties. But of course. No.

* She is for the anti cybercrime law.

* She is against same sex marriage.

But the ultimate reason why I am not voting for her: arrogance. She is relying on the name, popularity, and extensive campaign network of his father, thereby excusing her (she thinks) from telling us voters why she deserves our vote. She is qualified to be a senator because not only she is a Binay (it’s a birth right, and it’s her edge against the other candidates, says the daddy), her father tells us so. Jojo Binay even compared Nancy to Margaret Thatcher, so his daughter is very much qualified. All these show that the Binays are too sure and too full of themselves.

And that, my friends, is why I am not voting for her.

She’ll dance, she’ll wave, she’ll throw Binay candies and t-shirts and fans; she won’t talk because if she opens her mouth her ignorance will be discovered.


How do you explain Nancy Binay?

Many are perplexed by the consistency of Nancy Binay’s popularity as evidenced by several survey results. A virtual unknown prior to the start of the campaign, she was in the top 12 of SWS and Pulse Asia (PDF) surveys way before the start of filing of candidacies. Why?

Is it because she is a Binay? Partly, but how do you explain Jackie Enrile’s sliding survey numbers? Enrile used to rate highly but during the campaign his numbers slid. I think the people thought before the campaign started that it was the senior Enrile who’s going to run. It is also possible that Jackie’s numbers were affected by his father’s drop in satisfaction survey ratings in the aftermath of the MOEE issue in the Senate.

On the other hand, the elder Binay’s survey numbers are impressive, and in fact, even better than the President’s. These figures surely won’t hurt Nancy’s chances, and may even help come May 13. So her being a Binay is plausible.

Jejomar Binay’s extensive network must be a factor as well. Just look at the number of Makati’s sister cities in the Philippines. Also, the position of Vice President is perfect for campaigning, and anecdotes like Binay helping other municipalities when he was stil mayor of Makati are not uncommon. I believe this extensive network is now working, as evidenced by the survey results. This network is just a test and a dry run to Jojo Binay’s eventual run for the presidency in 2016.


Lacierda should know better

I rarely blog about current events and politics nowadays, for I thought that with friends and acquaintances on the administration, the country is in good hands. I still think that we are in the right track, but it can be expected that there will be goof ups, and there will be times when we have to correct the course if we go astray.

I actually dread the day when I have to call out people I know, and what I dread most is the day I have to part ways with friends over differences in opinion. But if I am to be a good friend and a good citizen, it is my duty to point and to dissent.

I’ve known Atty. Edwin Lacierda during the last three years of the Arroyo regime. I’ve been reading his blog back in 2005, back when Arroyo’s been pushing the limits of her powers and burning government institutions to the ground. I’d met him one time at a rally along Ayala Avenue; the last time I met him was at the Palace by the Pasig. I’d like to consider him as a friend but I won’t presume as such – I don’t even know his email address.

Anyway, yesterday, he was quoted as saying the following:

“It won’t win them brownie points … The better venue for them is to really show their protests in a proper forum.” (Emphasis mine.)

I find it ironic that he has to use a phrase that is synonymous with the Arroyo regime. For those who had forgotten: every time there was a complaint/protest against Arroyo, her allies would always tell the opposition (not necessarily those elected officials who were against her) to bring/prove them in the proper forum. As someone who pointed out the mistakes of the Arroyo regime, and to be told that phrase, I find it ironic for Lacierda to tell the anonymous hackers to go to the proper forum.

As a lawyer, he should know that the proper forum is still not an accessible one for people of little means. Hiring a lawyer is like gambling all of your resources to an uncertain outcome. Pro-bono lawyers are very few, and they have a lot of cases to deal with. Docket fees are prohibitive. And government officials can always sit on complaints or use the tyranny of numbers to quash them, as we had seen in the House of Representatives of the years 2006-2009.

The only way common folks can air their grievances is to go to the streets and protest – and we all know how effective it can be. Arroyo invented the calibrated preemptive response (CPR) to deal with street protests. While a legitimate form of dissent, a lot of people would rather do something else than go to the street.

And now, with the cybercrime law, the government is armed with other means of shutting out another avenue for dissent and airing of grievances – the Internet. Some government officials and lawmakers are asking the citizenry to give the law a chance. Yet, by reading the law, you’d see that giving it a chance means giving up this last space for free exchange of information and opinion.

I find it sad that Atty. Lacierda had to say that phrase. It brings back bad memories of a lost decade, years of frustration and of lost chances. He should know better.


Missing the point

I think a lot of us missed something important in the events of last week. Important because what started it all was an affront to one tenet of democracy.

And no, I am not talking about Secretary Leila de Lima’s show of balls (or arrogance, according to some people.)

No, I am talking about the SC’s decision to “bend over backwards to accommodate the request of petitioners for a TRO,” to quote Justice Sereno’s dissent (PDF link). (She was being gracious; what’s on my mind for the past few days was worse: bend over and spread its legs.)

Why is this important?

First, it is instructive to quote several provisions of our Constitution.



Section 1. The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.


Section 5. The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy.



Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.

Let me highlight Section 1, Article III, specifically “nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”


The Supreme Court, by giving cognizance to the TRO petition, and accommodating Gloria Arroyo (for example, when it extended its office hours so that it could accept the required cash bond), had inevitably shown the EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW exists as long as you are part of the 1%.

How many of you had parents, grandparents, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, relatives, and friends who spent a night in jail all because (1) the warrant of arrests were issued close to end of office hours, (2) did not have enough money to post bail (amount of which is not affordable to the 99%), and (3) when money is available, the courts had already closed (even if it wasn’t end of office hours, even for night courts)? This is an example, and I won’t be surprised if this is representative of what’s happening here.

Once we apply different standards of justice depending on one’s stature in society, the rule of law collapses. The so-called constitutional crisis did not begin with de Lima’s defiance, it began with the SC’s bending backwards and spreading its legs. This is the point that most of us missed, and continue to miss.


I’ve realized we had an Occupy Movement opportunity, but we missed it. Maybe because we have been so jaded by the injustice and inequality, but I think it’s time we take a stand and put an end to the 1% getting preferential treatment on justice.


Hypocrites all over

Bye-bye sexy Bench ad along EDSA?

“Hindi ko pinapaalis, I am just requesting advertisers to have it removed,” Abalos told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

He said the advertisers have already committed to removing the ad.

Of course they will commit, it’s an order from God, right?

But the mayor insists that this is not a moral issue.

“Baka sabihin nila nagpapaka-moralista ako. I’m not very conservative,” he said.

He isn’t? What was his reason for “requesting to have the billboards torn down?

Abalos said that the advertisement was inappropriate, especially since it was placed prominently along a busy area. He added that he was specially concerned about children who see the ad.

Let’s repeat what Fr. Abalos has said.

Baka sabihin nila nagpapaka-moralista ako. I’m not very conservative,” he said.

Yeah, right.

Citizens of Mandaluyong, you have elected a hypocrite for mayor.

PS: Citizens of Valenzuela, look at the kind of mayor that you have elected – a hypocrite.

PPS: The nearby seminary and the Archbishop’s Palace will be pleased.