I think most, if not all of the readers of my website have seen exactly what kind of ass Tito Sotto has been making of himself the past few days. The unraveling of the man continues with every word that escapes from his mouth, but the sad fact remains that the true danger of recent events lies not in the deconstruction of the man with the mustache, but in what these events could mean for the evolution of the Philippine Internet.
Let’s take a look at what Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s reaction and rationalization of his defense of Tito Sotto has to say:
I am not Internet-savvy so when the question came up about the Majority Floor Leader, I asked, ‘What is a blog’ because I don’t have a blog. I don’t know that. I thought it was like a slogan. It turns out it’s like a book on the Internet where you put your dreams, opinions, ideas and knowledge.
Let us make a law and let us put there the rights of those with blogs so it’s clear.
So let us study this or ask help from bloggers so they can tell us what law we need to pass in Congress so that there will be protection for them and so it will be clear.
Juan Ponce Enrile: the Old Man of the Senate
I’ve told friends that I find it unlikely that JPE, a man who reportedly stays up until 2am to read, and who also has something to say about the latest developments in science and technology, wouldn’t know what a blog is. My theory is that the man, being the senate president, is covering up for Sotto.
I also love the man’s reaction, quite the opposite of Sotto’s hot-blooded declamation of being the very first senator targeted by cyberbullying. Dialogue between the lawmakers and their constituents is important in lawmaking, and JPE, for his age, has not forgotten this.
So let’s start making sure that our senators and congressmen know what the Internet, and its Pinoy netizens, has done thanks to the freedom that the worldwide web offers.
The Problem of Internet Piracy
First, let’s talk about Internet piracy in the Philippines. Due to the fact that Philippine politicians are mostly folks who come from the media, there’s a lot of money at stake in protecting intellectual property produced by local filmmakers, so much so that a local version of SOPA / PIPA could be in the works (the operative words being in italics).
I won’t go so far as to say that Internet piracy is something we can’t do anything about, since I think that small book publishers and independent record and film producers should be given their due, both in cash and in acclaim, but the concept of sharing via the Internet is something that even renowned author Paulo Coelho considered SOPA as something that even intellectual media producers such as himself should fight against. He goes on to explain the logic of how Internet piracy can actually go a long way into making the actual pirates buy the real thing!
In fact, the power of Internet word-of-mouth that Coelho explains in that blog post could be visibly seen via the Internet and social media: back in the early 2000’s, bands and events organizers invited people to their gigs through Yahoo! Groups (yeah, remember that?). Small ‘zine publishers gained traction thanks to Friender, then Multiply, and then Facebook. Heck, even established names in the blogosphere such as Anton, Abe, and Lorie started out small, with a little blog in their corner of the Internet. And it was, for the most part, free.
The Power of Social Media in Freedom of Speech and Expression
Here in the Philippines, the ISPs may not be free, but people spend thousands of pesos just to get to the worldwide web because it gives us access to things far more important than money: information, and the freedom of expression. These are two of the most basic rights that individuals of a nation has, and you know what? The Pinoy netizen has often used this right to produce surprising (at times, alarming) results. Let’s look back to the 2010 Philippine elections, and look at how most of the candidates campaigned for their positions. Sure, the ubiquitous jingles – most of them more commercial than creative – were still there, but who can forget how Manny Villar, and in turn, Batman slapping Robin, became ingrained in Philippine government criticism?
If it weren’t for social media, or the Internet, half of the people running for public office in 2010 wouldn’t have gained the traction they did, unless they were household names. And half the time, the viral marketing happening at the time was 10% planned.
Ten percent. That leaves a huge chunk of the pie to chance, but since people were pretty much free to do what they wanted on the Internet, that ten percent wasn’t as risky a gamble as it may ordinarily seem. Sure, half the time, the people sharing these bits of media were your common tao, office workers who didn’t know the difference between social media research and sharing the picture of a LOLcat. But out of every twenty people sharing that picture of Batman and Robin, there’s one guy thinking, hey, wait: will this guy running for office actually make a difference?
It could be said that the 2010 elections was only the result of earlier social media testing made possible by the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. It wasn’t as bad as the previous monsoon rains, but the difference was that back then, we weren’t prepared at all.
Luckily for us, we were able to keep track of how things were going via social media. Twitter was where we went for all the breaking news and information. Facebook was the same, except it was more personal, helping us keep tabs on the people we loved.
Thanks to the freedom of how information was disseminated via these two social media platforms, the ill-prepared government officials were able to, help people who were in need, even if they couldn’t prevent further damages and deaths. Thanks to Ondoy, Pedring, Sendong, and the monsoon rains weren’t as horrifying as they would have been, since the Internet as a means of speedy communication had been tested beforehand, and people with enough intellectual panache to use this information to create clear-cut systems should calamities arise were able to use the data taken from Ondoy to set up safeguards that would repeatedly be a big help to the country.
Thankfully, we have clearer heads than Sotto running the top offices in the country. Because of them, we have the FOI Bill. The problem lies in the roots: the city counselors, the representatives in Congress. If Sotto can get enough people to back him up, he’d have found a way to turn the Internet into the next big Eat Bulaga extravaganza.
The bottom line is that we, the bloggers, are now key in preventing internet censorship; freedom of speech notwithstanding, a lot of these bloggers hold enough sway to make sure that their readers understand what unnecessary restrictions to the individual’s capacity to express himself on the ‘net can mean.
JPE wants to know what the bloggers think matters for bloggers to prosper, while protecting the rights of the individual. That’s a pretty tall order, if you ask me. But given what the web’s done for us, for them, in the past, I think it’s a relatively small civic duty to make sure that the people in power know what to do to make sure that the Internet remains the bastion of freedom and diversity that it should always be.