2007 Philippine Elections: Will Online Campaigns Work?

2007 Philippine Elections: Will Online Campaigns Work?

Ballot Box Caricature by T. Nast

Will online election campaign tools win an election? The answer to his own question was no. Regnard Raquedan protests.

Here’s my take (on the topic bloggers will most likely analyze for the rest of the 2007 Philippine local and legislative election campaign season because it’s good linkbait and shows just how much they love the Internet, and are therefore supposedly knowledgeable about it).

While I disagree with the elitism mentioned in the blog post, I have a good idea where the cynicism against online campaigning came from.

Cheaters

Call me jaded or a betrayer of the great equalizer that is the Internet (or some equally idealistic phrase that praises the Web’s social structure), but that is not the point.

If cheating is rampant—which it is, no matter what anybody says—no Internet exposure or any other sort of exposure will prevail over the tampering of the ballot count. A candidate would be better off dedicating his/her resources to pollwatchers. Losing by a hairline could also mean he/she might have won by a hairline if cheating were minimized. (Obliterated? That might not be possible anywhere in the world.)

Post Voter Confusion Syndrome by D. Collins

Filipino Internet Habits

That may seem harsh, given the bargain of an investment most online ventures require and the amount of hours I spend online that have shown me the power the Internet wields. See how Wazzup! Wazzup! has taken advantage of YouTube’s popularity in the Philippines with a segment they call YouTuberocatchy na, makamasa pa!

What am I driving at? There is around 7 million total Internet users in the Philippines and an estimated 1.1 Million active Internet users. (By active, I mean people who use the Internet more than once a week.) Had Barbers cornered an additional 1% of the active Internet using population, that would have gotten him over the hump. Similarly, it would would have taken Ernesto Maceda (#14) 63% of the Internet electorate to get a seat. That number represents an increase of only 7% of his total votes in 2004.

But—and this is a big but—are you sure how many Filipinos really use the Internet?

By this I mean not just a fraction of the Web. Not just DOtA. Not just Friendster. Not just Multiply. Not just Yahoo! Messenger. Not just YouTube. Not just Kapamilya or/vs. Kapuso forums.

An Effective Online Election Campaign

If you’re going to launch an effective online campaign, you need to consider the specific online behavior of Filipinos and not just assume that putting up a website will cut it. If a candidate’s online gimmicks grab the attention of mainstream media, that’s a good sign. (Of course we never know if they axed the stories out because they got envious!)

Pelton Wheel

It will take somebody who thoroughly understands the entire spectrum of the online and the Philippine culture. That’s rare. I can’t think of anyone who’s deeply rooted in both. (Help, anyone?)

Now knowing that’s rare, that potential somebody certainly won’t do it for free (or to the best of his/her ability). But then, which senatoriable actually understands or cares enough to waste precious pesos (oxymoron!) on a puny little net geek with no social life whatsoever, yet claims to be a better expert than our own selves about the way we think and act?

Even if there’s a sliver of a chance a candidate will gamble a few of his/her chips online, I think it’s too late in the game for the candidates to do excessive planning like that.

On a Positive Note

Taking things one step at a time might be the answer. I was still in college when the UP Linux Users’ Group (UnPLUG) first proposed the use of their Halalan Voting System in the Engineering Student Council (ESC) elections and those of other colleges in UP Diliman. Although it did not push through last year, I’m happy to hear they have successfully computerized the ESC elections for this year. The election of batch representatives for the Department of Computer Science (DCS) also used Halalan (first semester AY 2006-2007). Well done, guys!

11 replies

  1. this is a great and timely article. this passage made me think more than any other:

    “It will take somebody who thoroughly understands the entire spectrum of the online and the Philippine culture. That’s rare. I can’t think of anyone who’s deeply rooted in both.’

    i agree. however, what is exactly “Philippine culture” is open to debate, and thus a person who can be considered by some to “thoroughly understand the entire spectrum of the online and the Philippine culture” might not be the right guy for others ;) but as they, many things in this world are subjective.

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  2. Regnard, yeah, of course!

    Corsarius, yeah, I know it’s the “try to know everything” complex/idealism whatever. But as I said, the first step is in realizing a plain old flashy website isn’t going to cut it. I’d love to see them try out YouTube or other 2.0 website that have become hits (“patok”) specifically in this country. E.g., Friendster did; MySpace didn’t.

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  3. Pingback: Online Guide to Election 2007 «

  4. I like your article and the design is just fantastic, I feel so unworthy, hehehe.

    I posted my email addy, I just don’t know if you can get it? If not here is my email [email protected] .

    The data on internet users in the Philippines seems big, do you have the source?

    I plan to write this story in my blog and will cite your article so can you please email me for the clarification on the data, thanks.

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  5. I believe in the near future it will work but right now we’re still on the learning curve. Just like in TV advertising, the campaign should come to us, not the other way around. It should be more convenient for the public to know the candidates. To retain the free information, if a search should be performed, the candidates must ensure their websites would appear within the top 10 of the search. Right now what I did is to perform various searches from different choices by copy-paste from word, bookmarked the election sites where I will post the candidates I want to promote to widen their exposure and retain the cost-free exercise.

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  6. TO ALL
    I know this to be out of place. Please bear with me. I just want to create awareness by choosing the busy forum or the latest.
    Do consider Dr. Martin Bautista for the next elections obviously (a senatorial candidate of “Ang Kapatiran” together with Adrian Sison and Zosimo Paredes). He’s a 44-year-old gastroenterologist in the US who came home after 17 years. You can see from his background that he truly means service. For those who find him to be a hypocrite for working abroad, do understand he’s a family man who needs to sustain his family, that he will be able to keep his independence by not relying on public funds to support his family. He helps his countrymen in his capacity but it’s just not enough for there are millions of Filipinos. It’s a good start in Philippine Politics to have him and his party around.
    I urge you to forward/text/inform all your contacts about them. I believe they only lack exposure that’s why I’m doing this. But I can’t do it alone so I’m appealing to everyone’s help. If all will inform their contacts about them and urge them as well to forward, we might hit a million.
    We cannot afford to be indifferent now if we want meaningful change. Otherwise we only have ourselves to blame. BUT TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

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