TELEVISION personality-political activist Mae Paner, also known as Juana Change, is tired of calling out politicians and asking them for reforms that the Filipinos have always been asking for.
Instead of addressing the candidates in the coming elections, Paner is now urging the citizens to do their part in reshaping the country for the better.
“More than calling out the politicians, I really want to address the people. There is so much power they have within their hands especially if all of us will take it upon ourselves to be vigilant, to make bantay, to call them [the politicians]out, to shame them, and take them to tasks,” she says, citing social media as the people’s most effective tool.
Paner recalls how the “#epalwatch” campaign became so successful in the previous elections in shaming the grandstanding, self-promoting “epal” public officials.
The advocacy campaign, she believes, had made “big, big changes” in the 2013 polls.
“Mas naging maingat ang mga pulitiko kasi alam nila na mabilis ang mga nasa social media. Alam nila [politicians]na isang maling masabi o ginawa nila, pwede silang ma-quote at makunan ng litrato [The politicians became more cautious because they know that people in the social media react faster. They know that every wrong move they make could be photographed or quoted],” she says.
The “#epalwatch” is part of the election coverage which was recently relaunched by a group of social media savvies under the Blog Watch – a citizen’s election project that makes use of social networks and other multimedia platforms.
The group also supports the coverage of online news curator The Philippine Online Chronicles (POC.net) and the “#juanvote” campaign to expose electoral fraud and violence and to document the entire election process.
Acclaimed blogger Tonyo Cruz says netizens want candidates to address issues on the revocation of the Cybercrime Law, faster Internet, and digital divide, among many others.
“The Philippines is known as the social media capital of the world. Compared to 2010, the number of netizens has doubled – there are now around 40 plus million. So what would netizens do? Marami tayong kailangan bantayan: Pulitiko, partido, at proseso [ng eleksyon]. We are encouraging the netizens to cover the election,” Cruz says.
Paner is optimistic that citizens will be more vigilant and engaged in the coming elections because more people are now more open and aware on what’s happening in the country.