Online activism in the Philippines in decline as RA 10175 bares teeth

Here is a completely subjective back-of-the-envelope assessment of Philippine online “debate” and “activism” in the last couple of weeks based on casual observation of my Facebook and Twitter timelines: the edge in Philippine online chatter is progressively getting blunt. When I say it is getting blunt I say so in the sense that it is becoming less edgy.

First, a bit of a backgrounder…

To be fair, Philippine online chatter has for the last 3-5 years suffered a progressive loss of edge as discussions and debate amongst netizens steadily migrated from the Wild Wild West of blog comment sections and the Fight Clubs of message boards such as PinoyExchange.com to the relatively civilised metrosexual latte-sipping clubs of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Whereas in blog comment sites, people tended to focus their commentary more on content and less on inter-personal relationships, social media is, well, more social. Personal relationships amongst netizens crystallised and, as a result, commentary became more moderated, more congenial, and less sharp. Social bonds formed amongst online identities tempered in-your-face discussions as cliques of like-minded mutual-back-scratching “social media practitioners” emerged to propagate increasingly inbred ideas that spawned increasingly unimaginative online “movements” and causes.

The ease, addictiveness, and A.D.D.-friendly nature of Facebook and Twitter publishing and socialising has atrophied the writing faculties of many formerly-prolific creators of full-length blog posts and feature articles. As such, the quality of online content amongst political activists has deteriorated along several dimensions including depth, substance, and breadth.

That’s been going on for some time. But whereas that slow gentrification and loss of edge of online “activism” has transpired over timescales measured in the years, the recent collapse in the quality of the Philippine intelligentsia’s “debate” has been more catastrophic. It follows the enactment in September 2012 of the now infamous Republic Act 10175 a.k.a. the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Since then, barely weeks after its enactment, and even after a temporary restraining order (TRO) slapped on its continued implementation by the Philippine Supreme Court, the muting of once mighty Twitter and Facebook activists and prominent political bloggers has become quite palpable.

Despite the TRO against RA 10175, the head of a certain anti-mining activist Esperlita “Perling” Garcia has already been mounted on a stake before the madla as an example of what “careless” shouting out on social media can lead to. Though the libel suit against Perling Garcia may not prosper…

[…] the damage has been, is being, done. Garcia faces a year or two of legal uncertainty, mounting legal costs, distractions from her advocacy. Pentecostes said all he wanted to do was teach her a lesson, in responsibility, but in fact it is an object lesson in plain harassment. The powers that be can reach us anywhere, even on Facebook.

All this ominously paves the way for a more sterile environment for political campaign in the lead up to the 2013 elections — an environment that favours the traditional mode of operating of the Philippines’ well entrenched cadre of oligarchs, dynasty clansmen, and the no-substance election winning machines that they form and pitch as political parties to the Filipino masses.

In my personal watchlist of key “online activism” players, safe and congenial tweets and updates now dominate, sharing space with the sterilised shoutouts of a new elite clique of “online journalist” drones. Like politics like media. Tradition evolves not by changing its fundamental composition but merely by changing hands.

Like in the mid-1980s, ordinary Filipinos will likely have to rely once again on the foreign media for the sort of real insight needed to balance the lobotomised regurgitations of local “pracitioners” of both old and new media who now cower under the shadow of RA 10175.

print

3 Comments on “Online activism in the Philippines in decline as RA 10175 bares teeth”

  1. i agree with the observation. sad
    the natural characteristic if subservience and cinfirmity soon kicked in.
    fear alone mitigated any fight or indignation.
    a free pass for admin candidates to peddle lies/propaganda with impunity in 2013.

  2. Benign0

    The Bill of Rights the sovereign retains:

    “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” — Article III, Section 4

    Understandably, there has been a loud outcry to decriminalize libel as provided in RA 10175 that PNoy signed into law recently.

    But if the words as powerful as “No law” indeed mean what they say; then, in virtue of this constitutional mandate, there ought to be “no law” at all that would recognize not only criminal libel but civil libel as well.

    So, what particular specie “of speech, of expression, or of the press” is intended to be protected from abridgement by the opening words “No law”?

    The reply to this query may be discerned readily from the penultimate line of the provision – “the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

    Take careful note that this quoted line is joined to the cluster of freedoms of speech, expression and the press by a comma inserted before the coordinating conjunction “or.”

    Hence, grammatically, it is reasonable to conclude that the specie “of speech, of expression,” as publicized by “the press,” that Article III, Section 4 was intended to immunize from sanctions by the words “No law” are those that similarly pertain to spoken or written “grievances” of the people directed against “the government.”

    And this is precisely the gist of what James Madison wrote in 1789, proposing what is now popularly known as the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution from which the provision in our Constitution was merely copied:

    “The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.”

    Note that the word “sentiments” was changed later to “grievance.” The term “grievance,” of course, can also be expanded to embrace its slew of synonyms, such as complaint, protest, accusation, objection, dissatisfaction, gripe, plaint, lament and so forth.

    Hence, to my mind, this protective armor clearly vests “We, the sovereign Filipino people” with the robe of absolute immunity from both criminal and civil libel laws. For this provision was intended, primarily, to shield from legal sanctions all modes of spoken or written complaint, criticism or protest directed against official conduct or the policies of government as may be conveyed by the press or publicly voiced by the people during a peaceable assembly.

  3. “Despite the TRO against RA 10175, the head of a certain anti-mining activist Esperlita “Perling” Garcia has already been mounted on a stake before the madla as an example of what “careless” shouting out on social media can lead to. Though the libel suit against Perling Garcia may not prosper…
    “‘[…] the damage has been, is being, done. Garcia faces a year or two of legal uncertainty, mounting legal costs, distractions from her advocacy. Pentecostes said all he wanted to do was teach her a lesson, in responsibility, but in fact it is an object lesson in plain harassment. The powers that be can reach us anywhere, even on Facebook.'”

    Again, this is another proof of the failure of Taoist notion of “activity through inactivity” and the Kantian notion of duty. It is becoming obvious that people want to shut up because of their thinking that it is their duty to shut up, to just support blindly, regardless of real and imagined consequences. As a result, hunger and want are both widespread, since people do not think of what should benefit or harm them, they only think that such action is a must(Kantian notion of duty). If a problem rises, they will just shut up and try not to care, telling everybody to just leave it alone, and as a result, problems continue, and people suffer(Taoist “activity through inactivity”)…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.