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Politician bloggers in the Philippines

Filipino internet users are increasing every year. Majority of those who use the internet are reading blogs. It is not surprising that politicians and political parties are now bringing their campaigns in the internet. But sad to say, there are few elected Filipino politicians who are blogging.

It seems Congressman Ruffy Biazon from Muntinlupa (south of Metro Manila) is the most consistent politician blogger in the Philippines. His blog posts are readable and he interacts with readers and constituents. In a blog entry, he writes about the value of answering the emails sent by concerned citizens:

“I have just concluded answering my e-mail and reading the blogs of various personalities, capping a four-hour straight marathon in front of my computer.

“A question that comes to my mind after all that mental exercise is, is there a point to answering all these emails? Am I just wasting my time giving a detailed response to each and every email to me? Actually, I can simply send back an acknowledgment (” thank you for writing, I will ponder on what you said…”) and therefore disqualify any comment that I don’t respond to messages sent to me.

“But that would be a disservice to the public. As a public official, I do have that obligation to respond. And respond substantially. The public deserves, and it actually it's their right, to be answered by government officials.”

Senator Antonio Trillanes maximized the internet to win in last year’s elections. The former rebel soldier was in detention during the campaign period. Since he couldn’t travel his team created a blog to reach out to voters. His Friendster account became very popular. Friendster is the number one social networking site in the Philippines.

Trillanes is still in jail. A few months ago, he published his accomplishment report in the internet:

“Inside a jail cell, you are not witness to the state of the country with your own eyes: the rising cost of living in unequal proportion with a failing economic order. You are unable to hear the sentiments of our people first-hand: pervasive cries for justice and accountability against perpetrators of political violence and corruption. You appear insulated from what others endure outside these walls: the disillusionment of a people in the government that blatantly betrays its own obligation to serve them.

“But out of duty and desire, I refuse not to see, listen and feel. Transcending the challenge of circumstance, I answer to your collective call to action as duly elected Senator of this country.”

Senator Mar Roxas invites netizens to add him as a friend in Facebook. In launching his blog, he asked the youth to join a virtual rally against the Value Added Taxes imposed by the government. He was the keynote speaker in the 2008 Philippine Blog Awards. In his speech, he reflects on his blogging experience:

“I’ve been engaged in a little bit of blogging over a period of time, and always I’m amazed at how such a public activity, such an engagement with a multitude of nameless, faceless people whom you don’t know, are out there and who may peruse, go over what you write, can at the same time feel very, very private.

“As you sit in front of your keyboard and compose your thoughts, as you reflect on some of the ideas that course through your mind, and go through what it is that you would like to communicate, it is in a very introspective activity, at least I find that for myself. And as I reflect upon it, I think that on one hand, it’s so introspective, it’s so solitary in fact. And at the same time, you really are communicating with multitudes all over the world.”

Early this month, Senator Chiz Escudero, through his blog, admitted that he dreams of becoming the next president of the country:

“Dahil sa mga naglalabasang surveys na kasali ako sa top 5 ng mga presidentiables, marami ang nagtatanong kung nangangarap daw ba akong maging presidente ng Pilipinas sa 2010. Ang masasabi ko lang ay oo. May pangarap ako tulad ng sinumang pulitiko siguro ngayon na humawak ng mas mataas na puwesto. Ang maganda sa pangarap, ito ay libre at hindi kinakailangang bayaran. Subalit ang mahalaga sa akin ay hindi kung ano ang gusto ko. Ang mahalaga, ano ba ang gusto ng ating mga kababayan na tatakbuhan ko o kung gusto ba nila akong tumakbo sa darating na halalan.”

“Because of surveys showing I'm in the top 5 list of leading presidential candidates, many are asking if I'm dreaming of becoming president of the Philippines in 2010. All I can say is yes. I have a dream like many politicians to be elected to a higher position. Everyone has a right to dream. But what I want is not important. What is important is what the public wants me to do or if they want me to run in the coming elections.”

Governor Among Ed Panlilio, a Catholic priest who defeated wealthy candidates and traditional politicians, became a blogger last June. His first post was written in front of supporters and other bloggers in the provincial capitol:

“The amonged.org blogsite allows for that imagination to come through and be expressed in a new form. It also allows for a healthy dialogue with the elders, with which I confess to belong. In a movie that was filmed long before you were born, a protagonist remarked, “what we have here is a failure to communicate.” Indeed, when everyone talks at the same time, there is no moment left to listen. Putting our thoughts, opinions, perceptions and perspectives in a written form allows for more time to reflect on what each of us really wants to say, and allows further for a more sober and contemplated response.

“I am excited to hear your voice, most specifically your take on how governance and politics should proceed in this country. I am equally excited to hear the reactions of other people on your positions. We are thankful that the internet has allowed this to happen, enabling us to listen, as it were, to what other people have to say, notably those from other countries who have their own templates of experience, and from whom we can also learn so much.”

Mayor Jesse Robredo, recipient of numerous awards on leadership, is blogging through Oddball. In one of his posts, he discussed the importance of civil society participation in the governance process:

“Elected officials come and go. If there is one thing that is permanent in a locality, it is the constituency. A broad network of civil society organizations that represents the different sectors in the community can very well mirror the sentiments, hopes and dreams of the Nagueno.”

“I have often emphasized that at the end of the day, NGOs should draw their strength from their own selves. The political realities require that they must have the numbers, significant enough, so as not to be ignored by the important political players. Otherwise, they have to rely on the “benevolence” of an enlightened leadership to allow them to exert their influence in the governance process.”

Congressman Pablo John Garcia of Cebu province advises politicians to blog their replies against offensive media reports. Councilor Peter Lavina of Davao City (southern Philippines) is disappointed that only few politicians are blogging:

“Last week, I reiterated my frustrations over the lack of interest among public officials to blog and use this new tool to reach out to their constituents. For the past year and a half, I have been promoting blogging as tool for participatory governance but I got little support.

“There are now an estimated 200,000 bloggers in the country. Yet, we can only count a few public officials among them. I dream of the day when we can reach 100, then 1000 elected officials blogging in the country. That way, I am sure we can make a big difference in this, sadly, indifferent world.”

The blog, Opposite of Apathy, is maintained by several young and promising leaders who might be running for the Senate in 2010. Mayor JV Estrada, son of a former Philippine president, is one of the members of this group blog. A few months ago, he wrote his thoughts on public service:

“Ang inyong lingkod ay sinuwerte sa dahilang hindi ko hanap-buhay ang pulitika. Nagkataong ako ay isa ng matagumpay na negosyante bago sumabak sa pulitika. Sa madaling salita, hindi ko kailangan ang pulitika upang mabuhay, sapagka’t ako po ay may pinagkakakitaan sa aking mga negosyo.

“Nagkaroon ng pagkakataon ang inyong lingkod na matikman kung paano ang mabuhay na parang prinsipe sa loob ng palasyo, at natikman ko na rin kung ano ang pakiramdam ng nilait at inapi matapos na mapatalsik sa palasyo.”

“Your humble servant is lucky since politics is not my livelihood. I was already a successful businessman even before I joined politics. In other words, I don't need politics to survive because I have income from my business.

“Your humble servant had the opportunity to taste the life of a prince inside the palace, and I also tasted the feeling of having been insulted and oppressed after being ousted from the palace.”

Councilor Doray Delarmente made history by being the first elected doctor – politician in Quezon City; first Independent candidate that won in the district; and the first relative of a former incumbent councilor that won in the elections. She is also perhaps the first Filipino blogger to become a politician. She uploaded a campaign video:

The Batasan 6 blog was set-up to record the views and experience of five leftist solons who sought sanctuary inside the Parliament building after the government accused them of rebellion.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan launched ktube – campaign videos of his provincial sorties during the election campaign last year. A sample of ktube video:

A youtube video of Congressman Raul Gonzalez Jr. of Iloilo City (central Philippines), bungee jumping in Macau Tower.

GV author Karlo Mongaya contributed notes in writing this article.

2 comments

  • I surely hope that more and more politicians would consider the blogosphere as an important medium in reaching out to their constituents especially their constituents who are using the cyberspace as a means to express their ideas, suggestions, hopes, comments and even criticisms. Through this they would be able to learn more about their people and learn more from others too about how they could possibly improve their way of serving the people.

  • […] for.  Not all are rotten, of course. Mong has a post on the politician bloggers from our country at Global Voices Online. There is no logic to the arrangement of this post. The ordering is arbitrary. My recent roundups […]

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