Saturday, April 17, 2010

FB and Baguio Politics

Filipino politicians can not duplicate the success of Barrack Obama in using Facebook and other social media in networking and fundraising.
But do not tell that to the political candidates in Baguio.
Almost all have Facebook accounts and their posts and reactions dominate the political blogosphere here.
Even the oldtimers like former Mayors Braulio Yaranon and Bernie Vergara, both running for congressman, have their own FB account with YouTube videos of them.
With 30,000 Facebook accounts originating in the city, FB has become a virtual battleground for the candidates. Only ten of the 78 candidates for mayor, vice-mayor congressman and councilors do not have an FB account or page.
One of the unbelievers is former Mayor Ramon “Jun” Labo who said that most of the FB accounts were being managed by the politicians’ handlers.
But most disagree. Leandro Yangot, a congressional candidate said: "I have an FB account months before. I believe FB campaigning is effective. Late at night after the actual campaigning, I answer my friends' queries about me and issues in Baguio. I find it very intimate," he said.
Jose Olarte, a candidate for city council, said that he was able to connect with old friends and their families not only in Baguio but all over the world. "They tell their relatives back in Baguio to vote for me," he said.
Sonia Daoas, another councilor candidate, said that Facebooking is very personal as well. “I get to talk not only to my friends here but those abroad. We get to talk about issues and political gossips as well,” she said.
Baguio-born Johanns Fernandez, now a music critic in Seattle, said that local politics would be benefiting more from online social networking. "Coordinating activities, rallies, fund raisers, etc would be an effective way to activate grass-roots supporters. If it's merely used as a popularity indicator, it would really mean nothing," he said.
Antonio Alan Mazo, another council candidate, even formed an FB page entitled “Usto Metten (Enough Already)” which is criticizing over-staying politicians who has not done anything substantive to the city.
“It is efficient for classes "A", "B" and "C", apo. it's a good venue to know more of people's personality and even epistemology,” said Mazo.
Baguio, however, is very Internet friendly. Even Burnham Park is a free wifi zone. Many of the malls, hotels and shops offer free wifi.
Even local journalists are finding FB a good way to practice civic journalism. Pigeon Lobien started an FB page regarding the council's move to let Korean developers take over the Baguio Athletic Bowl.
"The response was overwhelming. I now have more than 10,000 fans. A similar FB page has 5,000. In a week, the mayor called for a review of the move," Lobien said. 
Even other politicians in other parts of the Cordillera are taking another look at Facebook. Congressional candidate Tom Killip in Mountain Province has three FB accounts for his campaign, most run by his friends abroad. Joy Bernos, a congressional candidate in Abra, is using FB to talk about harassment incidents to her campaign. "Technology is always a good thing, including the improvement of the conduct of elections," said Killip.
But the Obama FB phenomenon can not be duplicated even with the flurry. Joel Aliping, who now stays in the United States, said that unlike here, most people in the US have credit card, which was crucial in Obama's fundraising through the Internet.
In Baguio, FB is just one way of virtual handshaking.


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