Conventional wisdom today would say that an assembly of bloggers is like cats and dogs put together in one tiny space. We are said to be too feisty and too self-centered to cooperate among ourselves. We value our personal freedoms so much that we cannot be trusted to work together in a common cause.

Such conventional wisdom has been disproven each day and week for the past 5 years and the living reminder of fruitful and important collaboration among bloggers is the continuing project called BlogWatch, which officially turns five today, Nov. 24.

Super typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, brought havoc and devastation across Central Philippines. (Image from Wikimedia)
Super typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, brought havoc and devastation across Central Philippines. (Image from Wikimedia)

Five days since the world’s strongest typhoon first rammed through Guiuan and the the rest of a big area in central Philippines, we are all thankful for the nationwide and worldwide outpouring of sympathy and support for the Visayas.

The nation and the world watched in horror the reports of widespread devastation and misery in Tacloban City and several other places where Yolanda wreaked havoc. Citizens swiftly took action with relief aid campaigns, while our friends abroad mobilized ships and rescue teams, emergency food and financial aid. Thanks to the media, we are able to see snapshots of the miserable situation in Tacloban and other areas they manage to cover.

If you wish to help, the grassroots-based Citizen Disaster Response Center accepts donations in cash or kind.  It is part of a network of community-based relief agencies across the country.

But five days after Yolanda, disappointment is rising because there are a growing number of questions left unanswered, questions whose answers cannot wait a day, a week or a month more because more lives could be at stake.

Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom/European pressphoto agency - Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (C) greets supporters after delivering his State of the Nation Address during a joint session of the 16th Congress in Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines, 22 July 2013. Thousands of protesters took to the streets in the Philippines on 22 July to demand better jobs, more inclusive growth and the protection of human rights to coincide with President Benigno Aquino III?s state of the nation address. An effigy of Aquino was burned and eggs were thrown at police officers blocking the main road going to the House of Representatives. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA
President Aquino shakes hands with congressmen after delivering his State of the Nation Address during a joint session of the 16th Congress in Quezon City on 22 July 2013. Photo from Yahoo! News by EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA.

Dear PNoy,

Nakakagulat naman na ang sikat at pinagkakatiwalaang presidente namin – ayon sa mga survey – ay magsasalita ngayong gabi. At sa sobrang napakaimportante pa yata, mukhang ipe-preempt ninyo ang mga paborito naming telenovela at iba pang palabas sa TV.

Sana ay worth it itong gagawin niyo. Pakisugurado pong kapani-paniwala yung mga sasabihin niyo. Sana ay di mala-telepantasya yung script na babasahin ninyo para sulit naman yung pag-preempt niyo sa mga telenovela. (Sana maging Honesto kayo at ‘wag kontrabida, ok?)

Di po namin alam kung ganoon na kayo kakabado kaya gusto niyong maging Primetime King.  Anyway, buhay po ninyo yan. Sana ay basahin niyo ito para magkalinawan.

President Benigno Aquino III (Photo from
President Benigno Aquino III (Photo from

The title of this piece is one of the ultimate conversation spoilers when we talk politics, especially these times when we wish to hold the President, senators, congressmen and their fake NGOs accountable for the outrageous amount of pork barrel funds they abused or plundered.

The mostly educated fall prey for this rather simplistic and erroneous phrase and in the process let the crooks and plunderers get away with murder.  It is a not-so-smart smartass retort that we should pin down and take out from our political vocabulary.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, and Senator JV Ejercito lead the second hearing on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill Wednesday, Sept. 18. The committee hopes to reconcile at least 10 different versions of the FOI bill that remains pending at the Senate. (PRIB Photo by Joseph Vidal)
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, and Senator JV Ejercito lead the second hearing on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill Wednesday, Sept. 18. The committee hopes to reconcile at least 10 different versions of the FOI bill that remains pending at the Senate. (PRIB Photo by Joseph Vidal)

The Senate public information and mass media committee, chaired by Senator Grace Poe, today held a public hearing on the Freedom of Information bills.

The Senate FOI bills are authored by: Senators Angara, A. CayetanoEjercito, EscuderoGuingona, HonasanLegarda, Osmena, and Trillanes.

I made and delivered the following remarks:

Honorable Senator Grace Poe, other honorable Members of the Senate, and fellow citizens, good morning.

Thank you very much, Madame Senator Poe, for the invitation and for the opportunity to share views on the Freedom of Information bills now pending before the Senate.

Long overdue, but now’s the next perfect time

If we could only put CCTVs in every nook and cranny of each government office and assign a Reality TV camera on each public official, maybe we could lessen corruption and make government literally transparent. But that is not possible, impractical and may be legally questionable. The FOI is the next best thing. It gives citizens the flashlight to focus light and the camera to take snapshots on how government operates, spends public funds, and makes transactions, among others.

That Janet Lim Napoles is now in custody is a direct result of strong public pressure and the Million People March in Luneta and across the country. Had we not marched and told #PNoink that we want heads and pig heads to roll, nothing would have happened.

#PNoink treatment for Napoles

The surrender of Napoles to #PNoink himself and right inside Malacanang was an obvious scripted event aimed at portraying the President

as a man of action and true to his word. But the reverse happened. The people were shocked that Napoles found a way to the most powerful and busiest leader of the country and in the whole process evade a manhunt against her. That #PNoink met her cheapened the presidency and put the President right in the middle of the controversy.

Exactly a year after netizens fought President Aquino to eventually defeat the obnoxious Cybercrime Law, Filipino Internet users today waged another battle that showed the fight last year was not in vain.

Individual citizens and organizations, powered by social media and traditional tools, today held a march at the Luneta involving hundreds of thousands of citizens fed up with President Aquino’s refusal to abolish the pork barrel system.

Crowd estimates from the police say the target one million participants was not reached. Their calculators could only count to 300,000.

The streamers, placards and effigies expressed the outrage of a heavily-taxed citizenry long told that the government has no money for vital social services and the improvement of infrastructure, including flood control and airports.

#ScrapPork campaign reaches the US, with BAYAN USA picketing at the RitzCarlton in Los Angeles, where Jeane Napoles owns an allegedly ill-gotten property.
#ScrapPork campaign reaches the US, with BAYAN USA picketing at the RitzCarlton in Los Angeles, where Jeane Napoles owns an allegedly ill-gotten property.

For as long as we remember, every time we ask the government to do something that is good for the country, the standard answer has been “no way, magtiis tayo, walang pera ang gobyerno”.

And so many or most of us would actually stop asking government for what it should really provide in the first place. Like vital or essential social services from education to housing, flood control to airport upgrades, from OFW protection to suppport for entrepreneurs.

And we work our asses off to heroically fill the gaps, although it is always a herculean effort. Some have to leave the country to get fair opportunities. Those of us in the country endure daily taxation – from gas to electricity, that favorite latte to basic groceries. Everything is slapped with VAT. And then our payslip. Whether you like it or not, government gets a hefty share of the products of your labor.

It is in this context – of a country and people long told by government to suffer and to endure because we didn’t have much – that we have become angry and ready to march when we found out that President Aquino proposed P26-billion in pork barrel for senators, congressmen and congresswomen in his 2014 budget. This is on top of the P1-trillion in unprogrammed, special, discretionary funds – presidential pork! – for himself and his office.

Few days ago, as debates raged on the question of the urban poor and how we should solve the issue, I wrote a Note on Facebook. Here it is, improved and extended a little bit.

Carmen Deunida leads a protest rally by urban poor group Kadamay. More popularly known as Nanay Mameng, she is the face of the militant urban poor. Her fiery speeches captivated crowds in the anti-Estrada, anti-Arroyo protest actions. (Pinoy Weekly)

When I was growing up, my family moved from one apartment to another because the parents could only earn so much. There was even one time when they moved to a new rented apartment while I was away and I was the last one to find out about our new address! Anyway, my point is that it is not easy to rent an apartment or a house. One has to have more than enough money to pay “advance and deposits” and, of course, the monthly rent. The frequent transfers only ended when Dad decided to bring us all back to Bulacan where he has his own small share of land from his own parents.

Which brings me to the problem of hundreds of thousands or even millions who don’t share the same opportunities many of us have. They are people too, many of them from far-flung areas who went to the city because of the utter lack of opportunities where they came from. They opted not to plant palay or kamote because, rightly or wrongly, they thought there would be better opportunities in the city. Many went on to become minimum-wage earners (check Google for the daily minimum wage). Some are seasonal workers.

Hocus PCOS? Too many unanswered questions about how the Comelec's preferred way of automating elections actually works. (Photo from Pinoy Weekly/Davao Today)
Hocus PCOS? Too many unanswered questions about how the Comelec’s preferred way of automating elections actually works. (Photo from Pinoy Weekly/Davao Today)

Even as the Comelec embarks on a slow canvassing of results of the senatorial and partylist contests and winning local candidates are being proclaimed one after another, many are trying to make sense of the outcome of the May 13, 2013 midterm elections.

Here are my initial post-mortem notes on the polls, 13 in all

The elections are fast approaching and as we make our final choices, I wish to share two of mine. I hope you’ll join me in voting for them too.

For partylist representative, I am mighty proud to declare that my vote goes to Kabataan Partylist, #17 on the ballot. And without fear and with boundless hope for change, I’m joining the common people in voting for Teddy Casino, #6. 

Here are my prepared remarks for the eDemokrasya Conference on the Use of Social Media and Technology for Democracy Promotion” on Feb. 21 at Hyatt Hotel and Casino in Manila, held with support from the USAID, the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems:

At the #juanvote "Miting de Avance". Photo grabbed from
At the #juanvote “Miting de Avance” in 2010. Photo grabbed from

Filipinos want and long for a better democratic system. It is a system where: any citizen could be a candidate, a group of citizens could freely form a party, run for office on the basis of track record and platform, painlessly vote and have the vote counted accurately and quickly, winners swiftly proclaimed and sworn into office and throughout their term office be held accountable for their promises and for how they perform their tasks under the law.

As of today, this dream is a pie in the sky.

Photo from

Had lawmakers focused solely and exclusively on Identity Theft, Cybersex, Child Pornography, Computer-related Fraud and Forgery, Illegal Access and Interception, and Data and System Interference, there would have been no objections to the enactment of the Aquino Cybercrime Law.

But they didn’t. Instead, Congress made a full-scale, omnibus legal attack on netizens of the world’s social media capital.

A sign of the times under President Benigno Aquino III

From Day One, Filipinos have looked for ways to catch President Aquino’s and his team’s attention whenever they f—k their jobs and whenever they needed to be reminded about their solemn duties and the promises they made during the campaign.

Everytime the public would raise a howl over some grave mistake or omission, the routine answer from Malacanang has been to point fingers at the trust and confidence ratings of the President and the electoral mandate he enjoyed. Even social media, which the President and his team promised would be used for gathering feedback from the public, had been grossly violated. Each time netizens take to the President’s Facebook Page to give the President a piece of their mind, Palace factotums just suddenly get afflicted with an irrational allergy — they shut down the Page for comments. Of course, we cannot forget how the Palace just snatched the Facebook Page from the ordinary citizens which set it up and administered it until it reached millions of Likes. That in itself was an offense.

Enter Noynoying.

Referring to extrajudicial killings and the killing of journalists in the Philippines in his July, 2010 State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III declared that his administration would “hold murderers accountable.”

Despite that pledge, six journalists have been killed since then, or a total of ten since the Ampatuan Massacre of November 23, 2009 claimed the lives of 58 men and women, of whom 32 were journalists and media workers.

President Aquino has yet to check and challenge the culture of impunity in the Philippines: Six journalists and scores of activists have been killed since he took his oath as president..

In addition to the killings that have continued in the Aquino administration, a number of community journalists have also been threatened, sued for libel on the flimsiest grounds, barred from attending interviews and press conferences, and physically assaulted. In a recent incident, unidentified persons also burned a Catholic Church-owned radio station in Occidental Mindoro. All are indicative of a state of mind among those who want to silence the press that could, in the present circumstances, lead to murder.

In preparation for the Nov. 23 International Day to End Impunity, media groups CMFR and NUJP call for a Blog Action Day.

Over 500 days have passed since Benigno Aquino III assumed the presidency on a pro-change platform – but families of victims of extrajudicial killings have been made to wait and to wait longer for presidential action needed to spur decisive action by government.

The administration has not done anything meaningful to address the political killings that were an indelible mark on the previous administration. A few statements in speeches, yes. But compelling action, nada.

Social media has a role in reporting, solving social confllicts. Visual from

Friends from PECOJON invited me to speak at the forum and awarding of winners in the Red Cross Award for Humanitarian Reporting. The forum and contest revolved around humanitarian reporting, about journalism in the midst of conflict.

I was asked to speak on social media, and below are the thoughts that I chose to share, out of many ideas that popped in my head:

Bullet Points on Social Media and Social Conflict
by Tonyo Cruz

Here are various definitions of social media, culled from various sources:

Social media is a type of online media that expedites conversation as opposed to traditional media, which delivers content but doesn’t allow readers/viewers/listeners to participate in the creation or development of the content.”

This blogger speaks at the Visayas Blogging Summit in 2010. Photo by/from

(Post updated. Changes in brackets. Thanks.) I have long wanted to do something: To help form a national bloggers association in the Philippines. The premises are simple: We are a growing community, with more younger Filipinos trying to start their own blogs. We have worked together in many instances. We have organized events. Some of us have made blogging a career or a profession. We have been sought in interviews. Some have been considered experts in their own fields of interests. Blogs have become media too. Government and business have gone blogging and gone digital. Just imagine what we could do together if we have an organization that would take all these forward.

A number of Filipino netizens went ballistic today after reading news about the National Bureau of Investigation’s proposal to have all laptops and other internet devices registered as part of government’s efforts to purportedly curb cybercrime.

The laptop registry plan, first reported by GMA News and which follows a similar proposal covering mobile phone SIM cards, has attracted the choicest expletives from Twitter users as we could see in these curated tweets: