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‘Selfies’ Protest Against Philippine Train Fare Hikes

Categories: East Asia, Philippines, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Photography, Politics, Protest

“Selfies” or those self-portraits we take of ourselves to post in social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been associated with self-indulgent vanity [1] that draw people away from engagement with pressing social issues and realities.

But Filipino activists have taken the challenge of re-channeling an otherwise purely narcissistic activity for a growing number of wired Filipino middle classes towards a more constructive purpose by turning it into a form of protest against the proposed train fare hikes by the government.

Wishing to broaden opposition to the President Noynoy Aquino's pushing of fare increases for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) in the national capital, various activist groups are encouraging train commuters to post selfies that signify dissent.

Their efforts to complement offline protests with online actions is gradually picking up as more and more netizens share selfies with slogans expressing their opposition to the LRT/MRT fare increases through the #StrikeTheHike Facebook page [2], Twitter hashtag, or Instagram account.

As of this writing 122 selfies against the LRT/MRT fare hike have been posted in the #StrikeTheHike [3] Facebook page. Here are a few examples:

Not as Cool as Me [4]

Rai Teves [5]

Selfie by the MRT Station [6]

No to MRT Fare Hike [7]

Warning that the train fare hikes is a prelude to full privatization, the left-wing alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), one of the groups leading the opposition [8] to the train fare hikes in the country, is hoping [9] that the offline and selfie protests would snowball into even bigger street demonstrations.

Bayan-National Capital Region Secretary General Mark Louie Aquino said that the government should just re-channel the controversial “pork barrel” [10] funds of legislators for the social services and utilities like the LRT and MRT instead of raising train fares.

According to the Department of Transportation and Communication, LRT and MRT fare hikes will be increased by five pesos in 2013 and another five pesos in 2014 in order to recover operating costs that they say are heavily subsidized by the government.

A public consultation on the train fare increases has been set by the government on August 22. Activist groups, however, believe that this is merely a publicity stunt aimed at dampening the people’s growing anger. Online and offline protests, they say, must continue.