No less than a dean of Philippine journalism and incisive political analyst Amado Doronila has acknowledged that bloggers have become a potent force for disseminating information and shaping public opinion. Writing in his regular Inquirer column, Doronila tackles “Blog Power” and what this “new” element has done to influence the direction of public discourse. He uses the example of the De La Paz – Pangandaman feud to point out the advent of a new era of citizen journalism which he considers an aspect of ” a new people power movement, lodged in the Internet, (which) has emerged and has intervened forcefully to seize the public opinion initiative“.
The encounter marked for the first time the clash between the denizens of blogdom inhabited by users of Cyberspace and the official holders of power in the formal structures of government. The golf club encounter unveiled the constituency of this new and powerful force in public opinion which was mobilized to join the fray by a blog report written by De la Paz’s daughter, Bambee, 18, who narrated the details of the assault. The report became the basis of the criminal complaint lodged by the De la Paz family ahead of the counter-complaints also alleging physical injuries and child abuse on the part of the family victimized by the Pangandamans. The counter-suit lodged by the Pangandamans, which came within hours of the complaint filed by the De la Paz family, was reduced to copycat versions after Bambee jumped the gun on the use of new technology and stole the initiative from the Pangandamans, whose experience in counter-suits has been defined by the nomenclature of old politics which favors people holding power.
Eventually, after some foot-dragging the Department of Justice will announce the results of its investigation, but already a new people power movement, lodged in the Internet, has emerged and has intervened forcefully to seize the public opinion initiative. It has drawn people to take sides on behalf of the victims of injustice and the abuse of power by persons in authority. Within minutes of Bambee’s blog report the vast undercurrent of blog users came to the surface to add their own versions and knowledge of the Valley Golf Club incident, reinforcing the initial report of the De la Paz family. The bloggers’ perception invested credence to the victims’ narrative, even as the Pangandamans rely on the outmoded justice department’s fact-finding process for vindication. But the Department of Justice happens to be one of the least credible and most partisan departments of this administration.
What the Pangandamans and the administration failed to appreciate is that the reason the Valley Golf incident has caught fire rapidly is that it was ignited by an outrage over injustice by people in authority using their power and violence to trample down powerless people who dare protest infractions of the rules. The blog of the De la Paz girl tapped this undercurrent against abuse of power and injustice dealt to the underdogs.
Nielsen Media Research estimates point to some 200,000 local bloggers to date, from just 40,000 in 2007, amplified by the popularity of social networking sites. That’s a lot of presumably informed people whose collective passions can be harnessed, for good or ill, to further a social or political cause. In the case of the Pangandamans, there was a spontaneous groundswell against what was perceived to be a blatant display of abuse of power and warlord mentality.
The internet has broadened the world’s democratic space and has forever changed the way we interact with our environment and with each other. As I have said before, the challenge for bloggers is how to use this empowering medium responsibly, with due regard for the truth and genuine concern for others. Like it or not, blogging has become a powerful social phenomenon to be reckoned with.