Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 19      June 19 - 25, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines

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'Mobile-izing' for Arroyo's Ouster
Youth groups use technology to expose truth

Despite stringent government regulations that ban the airing of the supposed wiretapped conversations between President Macapagal-Arroyo and Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, progressive groups are finding more ways to circulate the content of the controversial tapes. All for the sake of truth.

By Carl Marc Ramota
Bulatlat


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's ouster might just be right at our finger tips.

Despite stringent government regulations that ban the airing of the supposed wiretapped conversations between the President and Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, progressive groups are finding more ways to circulate the content of the controversial tapes.

In 2001, the infamous Estrada administration withered away in the face of a protest movement employing information and communication technologies (ICTs) as catalysts for social change.

Other countries even said that the EDSA People Power II was the world's first "E-revolution" - a change of government brought about by new forms of ICTs. Technology, a foreign news organization reported, literally put the power in Filipino people’s hands.

With mounting protests against the Macapagal-Arroyo government, technology may once again play an important role in sparking yet another people’s uprising.

"Malacañang Scandal for Sale"

Using the internet, members of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) flooded various electronic mail groups, internet journals and other websites with copies of the controversial Malacañang tapes exposing alleged cheating in the 2004 elections. The student group said they got the files from the inq7.net, a consortium of Philippine Daily Inquirer and GMA Network, but the said website has pulled out the downloadable audio file after government threatened to file sedition cases against anyone who is in possession of the copies of the tape.

In a statement, LFS chairperson in UP Diliman Wendell Gumban said, "This revelation is of grave importance and must be widely distributed and must be listened to by all Filipinos. The Filipino people must have access to the truth. Now that we have sent copies of the files to thousands and thousands of our colleagues, friends, and relatives across the globe, Malacañang can do nothing but watch as the truth unfolds."

He added that the 'e-flood' will wipe-out fears of Malacañang's threats of criminal indictment to those distributing the material.

Militant youth group Anakbayan (nation’s youth) meanwhile distributed copies of the controversial CD titled "Malacañang Scandal" to students in the university belt as classes opened in most tertiary schools last week. Copies of the "Gloriagate" CD were reportedly now being sold on the black market.

"Gloriagate" ring tones

Text jokes about the controversy have already spread out but not until recently that it has been converted into a ring tone.

The new Gloriagate ring tone is selling like hot cakes among users of new models of mobile phones, and was quickly disseminated through infra-red and blue tooth technologies.

The ring tone starts and ends with the ring of an old phone, with the music of rap group In Da Club "50 Cent" playing in the background. It plays for 17 seconds and has the President saying, "Hello! Hello! Hello! Garci" three times and asking, "So, will I still lead by more than one million?"

More innovative

Anak ng Bayan Youth Party vice president Raymond Palatino said Filipinos, particularly the youth, are more innovative in exposing the truth.

Palatino, one of the convenors of the Estrada Resign Youth Movement (ERYM) in 2000-2001 said with new technologies now more accessible to middle class Filipinos, ICTs, particularly the internet and mobile phones, are potent instruments which can be used to effectively and swiftly spread information.

Estimates by cell phone service providers place the volume of text messages sent daily during the four-day EDSA Dos revolt at 160 million - triple its normal daily average.

Some 200 websites and about a hundred email discussion groups sprouted like mushrooms especially after the 'Juetenggate' broke out in October 2000. Among the most prominent of these online endeavors was
eLagda.com, which tried to solicit a million signatures in 21 days to pressure Estrada to step down.

"Cell phones are now considered a dynamic tool for political campaigns. Politicians, including spin-doctors, even used them for campaign in the 2004 elections," he added.

Important role

Palatino said ICTs have also been very instrumental in people's uprisings in other countries.

In 2002, a loose collective of internet users forced the British government to alter its decision on the controversial changes to its digital privacy laws on what was now dubbed as the "fax machine
uprising."

The fax campaign was made possible through the creation of the website called faxyourmp.com. When users enter their postcode, it tells them who their local member of the parliament is, and then allows them to send a fax which contains their complaint. This created a large-scale grassroots protest campaign almost overnight.

On the other hand, Indonesia's strongman Soe harto's dramatic fall from power was similar to the EDSA Dos experience.

Local political analysts say Suharto may have lasted even longer than the three decades he was in power if only Indonesians had not started going online in the late 1990s. He was forced to step down finally in May 1998.

Technology has also played critical roles in bringing world's leaders to power. Among other things, Florida will be remembered for technological hitches that plagued the ballot counting and possibly pushed the outcome of the U.S. election in favor of George W. Bush.

Strong mass movement

But Palatino said technology without a strong mass movement cannot stand on its own.

He said majority of Filipinos have still no access to modern technology. A recent study reveals that a mere one to two percent of 80 million Filipinos have access to online information while the great majority have the status of the so-called "digital homeless." The country's entire population, in fact, represents just about the same number of Americans who enjoy on-demand Internet connectivity.
 
"We use technology to disseminate information which are being held by authorities and shape public opinion, but that is not the whole thing,” Palatino said. “A campaign to oust a president will only materialize and succeed if there is a strong mass movement. We should use it to complement the growing people's movement."

Palatino said the government can't stop the Gloriagate scandal from spreading and urged the President to finally break her silence. "The people have the right to know the truth. She must categorically deny or admit if that is really her voice recorded in the tape. Truth will  always prevail in the end." Bulatlat

 

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