How quickly we forget. “Weaponizing” the Internet and social media for political purposes, especially by government communications officials using state resources, was not invented by people like Martin Andanar and Mocha Uson.
Indeed, the whole point of the plea of the Aquino-influenced online thought leaders (as they like to call themselves) to “take back the Internet” after Uson and others had successfully used social media to help President Rodrigo Duterte win in 2016 is premised on this belief: That the Yellows had so completely lost their dominance of the online conversation that they needed to retake it.
It was Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on information that is conducting an investigation into so-called fake news, who asked the question yesterday. “Have you ever considered—and I will ask this and I hope you will answer in all candidness—that since [Uson’s] private blog is also a way of expressing and communicating, that this is indeed overlapping with her official functions?” Poe asked Communications Secretary Andanar.
Andanar must also have forgotten all about how the Yellows dominated the online conversation during the Noynoy years, judging from his reply. He never mentioned how official propagandists like Edwin Lacierda, Manuel Quezon III and Abigail Valte all used various online platforms —using their own names and presumably the government’s assets—to spread the news, fake or real, about their boss during his own six-year term.
I don’t remember anyone taking Poe’s line of questioning during those years. And the only time that a member of Congress asked about the supposed online “troll army” organized, funded and maintained by yet another Aquino-era propagandist, Ramon “Ricky” Carandang, her pork barrel funds immediately dried up.
No one, as far as I can tell, has accused Andanar, Uson or anyone heading up the government propaganda machinery of supplying their online trolls with Blackberrys (remember those?) and Macs in order to perform their online skulduggery, either. And yet that is what Carandang was supposed to have done, according to Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay in her investigation, which was quickly aborted by the Noynoy-influenced Lower House.
If that sounds familiar, as well, you’ve have to go back even further. Back to when presidents first discovered that they needed Congress to shut down any opposition, something Aquino did with a lot of panache—and boatloads of pork barrel and Disbursement Acceleration Program funds.
I really wonder if Poe has forgotten all of these things, since she’s been around long enough and was actually in the Senate already for half of Aquino’s term. I certainly hope that she is not one of those who believes that the Yellows have an unassailable, God-given right to direct and dictate the national online conversation, which Uson and so many others seized from them with the democratization of social media platforms.
“Democratized” is rooted in “democracy,” after all. And unless I am terribly mistaken, democracy is what happened (and still happens) online.
Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista finally called me yesterday after my repeated attempts to reach him and his spokesman on reports about the planned closure of Times Street since Monday ended in failure. According to “Bistek,” this is the real score:
The huge Times Street gates, which will prevent entry into that stretch of road that includes the house of Noynoy Aquino, will not be closed except for “national security” reasons. Bautista defined this as “unruly” protest rallies in front of the home Ninoy built for Cory and where Noynoy now lives.
According to Bautista, the gates were requested by the local barangay chairman, who died recently. The village head, in turn, was acting upon the urging of his constituents in the neighborhood, who have noted the increasing number of protest actions in front of the Aquino home, especially since Noynoy stepped down as president.
Bautista added that neither Noynoy nor his sister Kris, with whom the mayor is very friendly, asked that the gates be built.
The gates will be ordered closed only by barangay officials of West Triangle and their volunteer forces, not by the police or private security guards, whenever they think a rally is in the offing, according to the mayor. These neighborhood leaders and their watchmen alone will decide when such a threat exists.
As for the humongous iron gates themselves, Bautista said he requested that they be designed in accordance with the overall aesthetic of the upscale neighborhood. But the mayor admits that he hasn’t seen the actual construction site, although he intends to visit soon.
Bautista explained that the city doesn’t really have jurisdiction over Times Street, which is a national road that is managed and maintained by higher government agencies like the Metro Manila Development Authority.
I forgot to ask Bautista why Noynoy’s neighbors, if they really hated the idea of seeing protesters on their street, didn’t ask the former president to move out instead. Or why the city had to build gates that will practically never close.