Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How social media is shaping the 2016 elections

By Demie Dangla, ABS-CBN News
posted at 22 Apr 2016 01:25 PM / updated as of 23 Apr 2016 08:23 AM 

From traditional ways of campaigning, politicians have seen the need to keep up this election season and strategically place themselves in the social media sphere, where millions of Filipinos are actively sharing information and making conversations.

The ability to reach such a huge population - and potential voting audience - become attractive for politicians who have also learned how to exploit social media for their own goals. 

But a political anthropologist and senior lecturer at the University of the Philippines-Diliman said that social media, while very helpful during the campaign season, can also break a candidate. 

Unlike before, politicians now have to deal with hashtags, trends, and even trolls. 

"It (social media) can make or break the chances of politicians because people react," said Professor Chester Cabalza, explaining how social media can influence the chances of a candidate in winning the upcoming 2016 elections.

It has only been in recent years that more and more Filipinos have engaged themselves in social media, making it integral in everyday life. 

During the 2010 elections, there were only around 23 million Filipinos using the Internet, according to statistics provided by 

Today, there are 49 million active monthly users of Facebook in the Philippines, according to the social media site, which is close to half of the population of the country. 

Before, it was just hashtags, status updates, photos and videos. But now, we have more sophisticated social media tools such as Facebook Live and 360 videos and more. 

With these, imagination is the only limitation for politicians campaigning in social media. 

Top social media users as of April 19, the two women running for the presidency have the most number of Facebook likes: Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Senator Grace Poe, with 3,446,922 and 2,848,930 respectively.

Vice President Jejomar Binay comes third with 2,630,878, followed by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte with 2,417,988.

Mar Roxas, who is he standard-bearer of Liberal Party, named the most dominant political party by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), comes last with 1,389,515.

Incidentally, he was among the first to realize the value of social media as early as 2010 when he ran for the vice presidency.

Meanwhile the vice presidential candidates, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano's Page has the most number of Facebook likes, with 1,703,746.

Senator Bongbong Marcos comes second with 1,192,823.

However, the number of page followers does not guarantee a candidate the attention he wants.
Recently, Facebook Philippines named Duterte as the "Undisputed King of Facebook Conversations" after he garnered 64% of conversations talking about him, while Santiago came last even though she had the most page followers.
The conversation or comment may be positive or negative regarding the candidate.
For vice presidential candidates, Cayetano was most discussed with 44% of the counted conversations, while Marcos came next with 35%.

These data were collected by Facebook Philippines from the 15.2 million Filipinos who engaged in election-related conversations on Facebook from November 20, 2015 to April 5, 2016, generating a total of 124 million interactions.
These conversations were generated from "any post or comment that contains highly specific and targeted keywords or hashtags related to either the election itself, a candidate, a party.”
Aside from Facebook, politicians have also begun using other digital platforms, such as YouTube and Twitter, to further widen the scope of their campaigns.
For Twitter, Santiago is way past the other presidential candidates as she has 2.49 million followers on the platform. She is followed by Roxas with 606,000. Duterte has the least number of Twitter followers with 42,100 only.
For vice presidential candidates, Marcos has the most number of Twitter followers with 374,000, followed by Escudero with 269,000 followers.

Social media as election ‘game-changer’
Cabalza said that this year’s elections would be different from its predecessors because of the deep integration of social media in campaigns. Cabalza said this makes social media a “game-changer.”
“The twist is you have social media that is very active. So whatever they (politicians) feed, social media reacts immediately and there's a thread of conversation, and it's very dynamic,” Cabalza said.
“Everybody would want to optimize social media use, everybody has the power to voice out their ideas and it has become a new battlefield… Generally, social media will change our political landscape, and it could help us choose whoever will win in the top post of our politics,” he added.
Facebook Philippines observed that social media’s role “has become more critical than ever” when compared to the 2013 elections where “only about 30% of Filipinos had access to the Internet.”
They said, “the proportion has grown dramatically since then.”
From 25% of the population using the Internet in 2010, and 37% in 2013, it rose to an estimate of 42.3% in 2015, according to
Comelec data show that “millennials” (aged 18-34 in 2015) is the single age group with the most number of registered voters at around 24.7 million.
Incidentally, these millennials are also the ones most active in election-related conversations, according to Facebook.
This may indicate how campaigning in social media can be a significant factor in influencing millions of voting population online.
Despite this, Cabalza still recognizes that not all Filipinos are engaged in social media, or have access to it.
“You will see asymmetry of power because it’s a way of looking at those who have this access to social media and those who have not. So, those who have no accessibility, access to social media, sometimes they're excluded from that arena of participation,” Cabalza said.
Social media ‘tactics’
Because social media has its own demographics, politicians had to learn, adapt, and hire social media managers to manage their accounts and engage the audience. Competition has also become tighter among candidates, resulting in various gimmicks online.
An example may be the video posted by Senator Marcos who dressed up as a Jedi when "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was shown in the Philippines.
This campaign video of Marcos is only available online, but was not shown on television.
These posts, shared multiple times, generate conversations, and increase a candidate's popularity, regardless of the reactions being negative or positive.

Because of its accessibility and the ability to immortalize content such as photos and videos, social media has also helped local candidates to widen their reach outside their municipalities.
An example would be the case of ousted Laguna Governor E.R. Ejercito's video of him dancing "Nae Nae." The video became viral and was shared 2,344x and viewed 223,000x.
The live video feature is also being exploited by candidates, making it possible for netizens to watch a sortie real-time, wherever they are, as long as they have Internet connection.

Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas and vice presidential candidate Alan Peter Cayetano use Facebook Live to broadcast real-time videos of their sorties.
Furthermore, social media, because it is free, has become strategic for candidates to influence public opinion, attack rivals, and answer queries from netizens with the use of hashtags.

(Left) United Nationalist Alliance standard-bearer Jejomar Binay takes to social media his call against his rival, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. (Right) Vice presidential candidate Gringo Honasan uses the hashtag #askGringo so netizens can ask him anything. He then uploaded his answers to YouTube.
But social media does not always have a good effect on candidates; since it is free, it can also backfire.

This is evident in the video of Duterte and his remarks about a rape-slay victim, which was uploaded online and became viral.
Empowered or immature netizens?
Still, Cabalza said social media is successful in engaging and emboldening netizens into commenting on political issues.
He said that the sentiments of a few can be amplified multiple times, which can lead to setting public opinion and effecting governmental changes.
"They (netizens) have the right to choose, to select, and sometimes they can demand for the advocacies and platforms, so they (politicians) are challenged now," he said.
According to Facebook, "transparency’"is the most talked about topic among netizens from November 20, 2015 to April 15, 2016, getting 66% of conversations made about elections. Economy and education both came second with 30%, while social welfare got 25%.

However, he said that it goes two ways: just as much as there are “clever, intelligent netizens” who would question and attempt to verify social media posts, there are also as many who would easily believe and even share unsubstantiated material on social media.
“If you are more critical, then you would have to verify it. So, it goes two ways. It's like consumers in a brand. There are some smart consumers, there are those who are just passive,” Cabalza said.
He said that the most affected by perceptions easily generated on social media are the "volatile, undecided voters."
"Sometimes they are the ones that are being shaped by social media because they base their decision from perceptions, and social media is a way of feeding that information to netizens. So, I think it's very crucial, it has its own unique call because basically, social media is there, although it's not really sophisticated when it comes to its content."
Cabalza is referring to “immature” use of social media by spreading false information, unsubstantiated posts, and doing personal attacks against a person.
That is why Cabalza believes that although there is political engagement in social media Filipinos are still “immature” when it comes to using social media as we are still “evolving.”

He said that Filipinos are still more into “showbiz politics,” although he hopes that there will come a time when netizens would mature when engaging in political discourse in social media.
But when asked if social media, given the nature of the netizens, can make a candidate win, Cabalza replied:
"I believe it's an alternative, but we cannot underestimate its power because social media is a game-changer.... They (politicians) are cementing their strong presence to voters' preference and choices... (But) it's participatory, informal, personalistic, and that's Filipino culture," he said, referring to the capacity of netizens to "criticize politicians for their reactions, political standpoints, statements, and it can set public opinion" when shared multiple times, may it be memes or personal posts.
"It's a big indicator basically on how politicians can make to the elections.... It can make or break them basically,” he said.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Duterte dares US, Australia to cut ties

12:38 AM April 22nd, 2016

KALIBO, Aklan—Trash-talking presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte has dared the United States and Australia to cut diplomatic ties with the Philippines after their ambassadors criticized his joke about the jailhouse rape of a missionary.

Duterte also told the ambassadors to “shut their mouths” and not to “interfere” in the elections as controversy continued to rage over his comments in which he said he wanted to have been the first to rape Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill, who was gang-raped and murdered in a prison riot in Davao City in 1989.

“If I become the President, go ahead and sever it (diplomatic ties),” Duterte, 71, said on the campaign trail on Wednesday night, referring to the relationships with the United States and Australia, two of the Philippines’ closest allies.

“It was not a joke when I uttered it (in 1989). They took it as a joke when I narrated it. These ambassadors are stupid. I was mad when I uttered it. When I narrated it, I was not angry anymore,” Duterte told reporters after a rally attended by 6,000 supporters in Kalibo, Aklan province.

Tough-on-crime pitch

Duterte, who while campaigning had called Pope Francis a “son of a bitch” and promised to kill thousands of criminals, recounted at a rally in Quezon City on April 12 the riot events as part of his tough-on-crime pitch to voters.

"They raped all of the women … there was this Australian lay minister … when they took them out … I saw her face and I thought, ‘Son of a bitch. What a pity… they raped her, they all lined up,” he told the crowd.

“I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first,” he said.

Duterte was at the time mayor of Davao City, where he is accused of running vigilante death squads that have allegedly killed more than 1,000 people.

The front-runner in voter preference polls for the presidential election on May 9 has at times on the campaign trail boasted about running the death squads, claiming they killed 1,700 people, but also denied any links to them.

Ambassadors react

Duterte has similarly offered varying responses to the rape comments, with his media team releasing a statement in which he apologized. But on the campaign trail, he has repeatedly told reporters he would not apologize.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely criticized his remarks, saying in a statement on Twitter: “Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialized. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere.”

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg later agreed with her, saying in a television interview that “statements by anyone, anywhere that either degrade women or trivialize issues so serious as rape or murder are not ones that we condone.”

“It would do well with the American ambassador and the Australian ambassador to shut their mouths,” Duterte said in reaction in his campaign speech in Kalibo.

“You’re not Filipinos. Shut up. Do not interfere because it’s election time,” he said.

Reminded by reporters later about his earlier campaign statement that if elected President, he would ask help from the Philippines’ allies should China attack the country over the South China Sea dispute, he said he was not worried about the effects of his statements on diplomatic ties.

“That’s their problem, not mine. I never interfered in their elections,” he said.

Assuming that the ambassadors were right, he said, they should not have spoken during election time.
“It will show that you’re politicking. If you want, you call me. I will not apologize. I will not go to you for any talks. I am a Filipino and I will chart the [future] of my country,” he said.

Aquino defends alliances

A spokesperson for the US Embassy  on Thursday said there was no immediate response to Duterte’s remarks about the ambassadors. An Australian Embassy spokesperson said there would be no comment.

President Aquino, speaking to reporters in Lipa City, criticized Duterte’s remarks, saying  the United States has always been among the Philippines’ top three trading partners while Australia has been helping the government’s peace process in Mindanao.

“He (Duterte) comes from Mindanao and I am sure he would want to have lasting peace in Mindanao,” Mr. Aquino said.

The President said Duterte could not just say something because he “felt like saying it,” referring to the Davao mayor’s frequent acknowledgment of his foul language.

Voters should learn from such remarks, the President said, adding: “I believe the public knows how to make the right decision.”

Lawyer Martin Loon, a national security expert, said Duterte’s statement about severing ties with the Philippines’ closest allies was almost like steering the country toward “isolationism.”

“Candidates who seek to destroy, strain or otherwise adversely affect our harmonious and longstanding ties with foreign nations that can be considered key allies on several fronts are very disturbing,” Loon said.

He said Duterte appeared to be a “threat to national security.”

‘So strange’

Security expert Chester Cabalza of the National Defense College of the Philippines said it was “so strange for a presidential aspirant to utter immature statements against allies like the United States and Australia.”

Cabalza said it seemed  Duterte was not well versed in foreign policy and the significance of alliances.

This is not the first time that Duterte has taken a stand against allies of the Philippines. In the past decade, he consistently refused to allow US-Philippine war games to be held in Davao and he most recently rejected proposals to make the city a launching site for US drones.

Duterte’s anti-US stance, which has endeared him to left-leaning activists but made other sectors wary of him, dates back to May 16, 2002, when a bomb went off at Hotel Evergreen in Davao City.
Police investigators traced the bomb to American Michael Meiring, who was injured in the explosion and was taken to a hospital.

Police brought criminal charges against Meiring, but weeks later, alleged agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation spirited the American out of the hospital, flew him to Singapore and eventually to the United States.

Duterte was furious and he had since been accusing the United States of running covert operations against Moro rebels in Mindanao.

South China Sea row

In another warning to the United States and Australia, Duterte’s camp signaled it was prepared to change foreign policy and start direct talks with China over the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

President Aquino has been improving defense ties with the United States and Australia to bolster the Philippines’ position in its territorial dispute with China.

But Duterte’s spokesperson Peter Laviña said in a television interview on Thursday that the mayor would be prepared to talk directly with China.

President Aquino has refused direct talks with China over the territorial dispute, preferring multilateral discussions and challenging China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Laviña said Duterte was “supporting multilateral efforts to rein in China but at the same time, added the mayor was open to bilateral talks.”

He said Duterte was willing to dialogue with China about “joint development of the resources of the South China Sea.”

“Eventually, we need China’s investments and technology,” he said.

‘Go to hell, Gabriela’

The women’s group, Gabriela, filed a complaint against Duterte in the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Wednesday over the rape joke, accusing the mayor of violating a law that protects women’s rights and eliminating all forms of discrimination.

Duterte dismissed the complaint as “silly” and told Gabriela to “go to hell.”

“You are crazy,” the mayor said, referring to Gabriela.

Later, campaigning in Cebu, Duterte described Gabriela as “dumb.”

“They brought a human rights case against me, maybe they had been paid, the sons of bitches,” he said.

Duterte called the CHR “stupid” for issuing summons to him less than three weeks before the election.

“I am a candidate for the presidency. Why are you summoning me and what is your ground? Hoy, you sons of bitches, there’s nothing more I can do about your stupidity,” he said.

He said he would not answer the CHR summons, adding the commission showed disrespect not only toward him but also toward his supporters.

He said people may criticize him for his “bad mouth,” but he insisted he was exercising his right to free speech.

Duterte urged voters to look beyond his trash-talking, saying his foul language was not an election issue.

“The issue should be corruption. Where is the people’s money?” he said, drawing cheers from the crowd.  With reports from Nikko Dizon in Manila; Nestor Corrales,; and AFP

#VotePH2016: The Inquirer multimedia coverage of the 2016 national and local elections in the Philippines provides to voters the latest news, photos, videos and infographics on the candidates and their platforms, as well as real-time election results come May 9, 2016. Visit our special Elections 2016 site here:

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Malaysia Truly Asia

       Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2016 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

I have been to Malaysia thrice but it feels like a first time each time I visit this beautiful country. I first came to see Alor Setar, Penang and Kuala Lumpur as a traveling scholar with other ASEAN college students, then as a speaker and paper presenter for an international students' conference for my second visit, and later on as an expert scholar for my third invitation. I hope to return in this multicultural ASEAN country confidently prepared for the regional integration. The sights and sounds, food and people, are generally awesome. There's no wonder that Malaysia is a top-notch tourism destination in the region! #MalaysiaTrulyAsia   

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Time for 'holistic transformation' in AFP: expert

Posted at 04/06/16 7:01 PM

A national defense expert said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) urgently needs ‘holistic transformation,’ noting that the upgrading of military equipment must go hand in hand with the advancement of human resources.
During the APEC meeting in November 2015, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III and Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin met with their counterparts to talk about purchases and donations of military equipment including assault jets, radars, drones and sea vessels, among others.
But National Defense College professor Chester Cabalza believes the acquisition of sophisticated military equipment is not enough to fully address concerns amid internal and external threats.
“It’s not only about acquisition, once you acquire, possess those sophisticated military equipment, you also have to train your human resources,” Cabalza.
“It must go hand in hand, the material possession and the human resources, for example there are plans that we will buy a submarine but of course aside from buying that submarine, you also have to train your sailors, it takes 5 to 15 years to train them,” he added.
He also said there must be a change in strategy and in structure within the Armed Forces, noting that the internal and external security threats are forcing a shift from terrestrial power operations to combined naval and air powers.
"The problem here, in my own perspective, is that majority of our military are coming from the Army and most of the chief staff are from the Army, so the priority, the interest are on the terrestrial power when in fact we are now shifting," he said.
"We want to see more chiefs of staff coming from the Navy and the Air Force in the future because of this sudden shift in our strategy," he added.
Cabalza believes these are all achievable for the country, with the government now open for changes in the current military strategy.
“The good thing is that we are now open to these changes and all of a sudden the people are all imbibing about these defense polices,” he said.
He also recognized the benefits of the Balikatan exercises with the US military on the improvement of the Philippine Armed Forces' competence and capability.