UK’s TimesOnline features the brave bloggers of Burma who continue to cover the massacre of innocents being done by the unelected Myanmar military junta. These folks are where the international media are prohibited to go and are themselves in grave danger from being arrested or shot to death by the insecure authorities.
Their underground and clandestine operations are familiar to Filipinos who have fought colonizers and tyrants in similar fashion, be it against the Spaniards, the Americans, the Japanese or our fellow Filipinos who became traitors or tyrants themselves like Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
During the Propaganda Movement for reforms against Spanish excesses, Marcelo H. del Pilar, Graciano Lopez Jaena and other propagandists fooled the fascists by putting misleading or fake publication offices for the newspaper La Solidaridad.
Katipunan secretly circulated the Kalayaan newspaper which helped the revolutionary underground movement recruit thousands of adherents in the fight against the colonizers. Katipuneros also used secret codes during their meetings.
When the “democratic” Americans colonized the embryonic First Asian Republic, symbols of nationalism and independence were banned from display. But artists found ways of going around the ban: They wore the tri-color and other symbols of the Philippine flag as part of their costumes for theatrical performances.
Anonymous newsletters, mostly mimeographed, came out with full force in response to martial law. Prior to Marcos’ proclamation of martial law, national democratic activists used mimeographed copies of the book Philippine Society and Revolution to radicalize millions nationwide, introducing to the nation the word “revolution” as response to “imperialism”, “bureaucrat capitalism” and “feudalism”.
The underground press of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the mosquito press of press freedom fighters like Joe Burgos and the competent and widely-circulated campus papers played hide and seek with the dictator’s minions in their common efforts to enlighten the public, to expose tyranny, and to inspire national action. (Even churchpeople had the funny, satirical “Signs of the Times” and a valiant lady-publisher came out with the fighting Mr. & Ms. Special Edition.) Brutal political repression was no match to popularly-supported, albeit underground or semi-underground, forms of media.
Nowadays, blogs are able to reach many internet-connected Filipinos, providing incisive analyses and timely reports that are sometimes unreported or under-reported by the traditional media. Those connected to the internet in the Philippines are among the most influential, the opinion-making folks. Is they are uninformed or uninspired to take action (as in the first few years of martial law), they may end up not noticing that Arroyo can and will transform the Philippines into another Burma if and when she wants to. She has presider over the extrajudicial killings of 886 Filipinos and the enforced disappearances of about 200 others (including Jonas Burgos, the son of press freedom icon Joe Burgos) since becoming president in 2001, and there seems to be no end in sight to the carnage.
If the situation goes from worse to worst, and Arroyo (mis-)uses the Terror Law (or the Human Security Act of 2007) against all dissent in her familiar, self-preserving fashion, Filipino bloggers will have to continue the fine Philippine tradition and join Burmese bloggers in a league that is currently they own exclusively:
That of being bloggers for freedom and democracy.