Where is the Youth in the 7.8% Growth?

The Aquino administration boasts of consistent economic growth. But growth felt by whom? At the grassroots, statistics point to a rising number of young people who are unemployed, uneducated, sick and marginalized.

The Aquino administration boasts of consistent economic growth. But growth felt by whom? At the grassroots, statistics point to a rising number of young people who are unemployed, uneducated, sick and marginalized.


The Mobile Filipino: Glorified Victims of the Crisis of Capitalism


The Mobile Filipino: Glorified Victims of the Crisis of Capitalism

By: Marlon Cornelio and Rafaela David, Akbayan Youth – Philippines.

Parts of this paper were presented during the Workers Youth Festival, 9-12 May, Dortmund Germany. First published in the Newsletter of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY). 

The future doesn’t look bright in the Philippines. That is, at least for some 60 % of Filipino youth, from rural and urban, ages 15-30, who desire to work abroad because of higher pay according to the 2010 Youth Study of the National Youth Commission. This is despite the knowledge that working abroad is not healthy for family stability, according to more than 70% of those surveyed. About 85% of those surveyed recognize limited opportunities to earn a living in the country.

While noble with intentions to support their families by working abroad, young people, — future scientists,engineers, teachers, medical practitioners, etc. — comprising a third of the Philippine population, are leaving their country for “greener” pastures. Already, about 10% of the 100 Million Filipinos are working abroad, known as overseas Filipinoworkers (OFWs). They are ‘honored’ by the government as the ‘new heroes’ for sending back remittances amounting to more than US$ 20 B a year, 4th largest in the world next to China, India and Mexico, and keeping the economy afloat despite the global economic crises.

Additionally, there are about a million young Filipinos, physically in the country but working for businesses abroad, working in call centers or business process outsourcing (BPOs), one ofthe fastest growing industries in the country for the past years. In 2012, the BPO sector generated revenues of more than US$ 13 B. The industry has grown an average of 20-25% from 2009 to 2012, and is projected to grow more in the coming years.

The global outsourcing industry is one of the few industries that thrived despite the economic crises in the past years. In 2009, the global revenues increased from US$ 106 B (2008) to US$110, employing a total of close to 4 million professionals. By 2016, the industry forecasts revenue of US$ 300B with almost eight million employed. In the Philippines, US$ 25 B, about a tenth of the world revenue, is projected for 2016, with a direct workforce of 1.3 million, accounting for nine percent of GDP.

The numbers for both industries look promising. Philippine economic managers have only praises for the workers in these two industries for the 6.8 % growth in the GDP in 2012 despite the global economic crises.

But is this internationally-dependent, service industry-backed growth sustainable? What is this growth if not a symptom of capital crossing borders to increase profit by exploiting cheap labor?

Indeed, this growth based on mobile labor brings to the fore three important issues that need to be looked at: (1) the ever-adapting nature of neoliberal capitalism, (2) unsustainableand inequitable growth in the Philippine economy and (3) the high cost of labor trading on workers’ rights.

Why the Philippines? — Capital Exploring Greener Pastures

Alongside the mobility of labor is the mobility of capital. Capitalism, always in a state of crisis and expansion, has found its way yet again across borders, this time around, across the Philippine border and other developing countries, for the cheapest labor.

Dubbed as one of the “Tiger Cub Economies” of Asia, the Philippines, like other developing countries, has proven an attractive market where cheap labor can be bought to stabilize the capitalist crisis that had been growing in the shores of developed countries. On the one hand, labor migration or the OFW phenomenon has proven to make capital more profitable, with Filipinos themselves becoming cheap commodities for sale, pushing the service sector in countries abroad at highly profitable rates. It has also provided a way out for businesses not to heed to the demands of more organized labor movements in developed countries.  It is not uncommon for migrant workers to be pitted against local workers.

The whole business of labor export has also led to the investment of capital to institutions that profit from the trade of labor. These include both legal and illegal recruiting agencies, big corporate service providers and even government agencies. Employers in receiving countries are of course more than willing to accommodate OFWs for the sake of skilled workers at cheaper labor costs.

More recently, we also see outsourcing as another form of capital adaptation. Investments poured in the Philippines as the country has become a location of choice for companies outsourcing operational processes, voice and non-voice, such as human resources,information technology support, medical transcription, engineering services,animation, game development and finance and accounting. According to the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), the Philippines has the largest number of voice-BPO employees in the world and has established itself as a mature tier-1 destination globally.

In its reports, BPAP attributes the attractiveness of the Philippines as an outsourcing destination to a number of factors including strong English-speaking capabilities, low infrastructure and labor costs, large base of fresh graduates and talent availability, as well as strong government support.

Demand for the Philippine labor force, therefore, increases with high supply of cheap yet skilled workers — a  more than good deal for most investors.

Growth for Growth’s Sake

The Philippine government, hence on its part, has been more than willing to oblige foreign investors, promoting both officially and unofficially labor mobility both outside (in the form of OFWs) and inside (in the form of BPOs), citing labor as one of the country’s richest resource, lauded further by the government for keeping the Philippine economy growing in the midst of the global economic meltdown.

The optimism on our economy basedon the 6.8% growth in GDP in 2012 however is misleading.

Looking at the Philippine economy closely, it is evident that the service sector contributed mostly to the growth. This proves problematic as even the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in its recent report stated that unless government supports policies that promote a more robust manufacturing sector, the Philippines has a long way to go to achieve inclusive growth.

The report further stated that the Philippines’ reliance on BPO industry and remittances-driven private consumption do not provide higher paying jobs needed to reduce poverty. This is more importantly critical as even if job creation has increased due to BPOs and OFWs, total labor force participation has not increased. Moreover, the pool of skilled workers are forced to take low-productivity jobs both here and abroad, while there is an increase in the underutilization of moderately skilled workers.

Labor trade and the economic growth subsequently prove both unsustainable and inequitable. Growth herein does not translate to local development and poverty alleviation. It is no surprise then when the growth in the aggregate wealth of our 40 richest families in 2011 has shown to be equivalent (in value) to 76.5 percent of the growth in our total GDP at the time.

The Price of Growth – The High Cost of Labor Trading On Workers’ Rights

The creation of jobs here and abroad has been hailed as among the most important indicators of growth in the local economy. But what kinds of jobs are generated in this labor export business?

There are inspiring stories ofFilipinos being lucky and accomplished in their work abroad. However,generally, OFWs are vulnerable to a number of risks when they go out of the country. The risks begin in the Philippines where local recruiters, acting as placement agencies, get high commissions from aspiring applicants. Once deployed, they are forced to take low-paying contracts that do not reflect earlier agreements with the local recruiters. Many OFWs working in the domestic sector further find themselves in repressive situations, where the pay is lowand the working hours long. Mostly women, they are expected to work 18-20 hours a day and fulfill the sexual needs of their employers. Those in better paying jobs in more developed countries are more fortunate. Nonetheless, they become subject to discriminate office policies and lower salary grades.

This is not to mention the effects of labor migration to both the OFW’s social well-being and to his/her family left in the Philippines. With social adjustments in the new country, integration is not always a pleasant experience, with support systems not readily accessible, especially to those who were recruited illegally. Moreover, the alienation of the worker from his/her family and the dependence bred on remittance becomes a source of conflict in OFW families.

BPO industries on the other hand show another scenario. The entry rate in the industry is between PHP16, 000 and PHP18, 000 which is 50% more than the minimum wage rage in Metro Manila pegged at PHP 389-426 a day. This relatively higher salary however comes with greater cost attributed to odd working hours,irate clients, tedious workloads and heavy performance demands. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the International Labor Office (ILO) found the BPO workers have issues on stress, poor diet, physical inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use, HIV and IDS, tuberculosis and violence.

Furthermore, health complaints concerning eyes, cough, voice disorders and insomnia are common among call center agents. The prevalence of these health problems have been noted significantly higher compared to other night shift workers. BPO night-shift workers are also more predisposed to safety issues, particularly petty crimes. Attrition rate is also significantly high in BPO industries at 9-10% at the average. With these working conditions, one out of three would resign at the end of the year or four times as high as the national average on turnover rate. With these considerations, career development and job security are huge challenges.

Towards a Global Network of Workers

Despite such job insecurities,labor migration, real and virtual, is a growing industry in the Philippines. Working abroad or in BPOs has increasingly become the option for young Filipinos and the government lays policies and invests on infrastructures that promote such kind of market behavior. Similar patterns can be observed and should be expected in other developing countries.

The challenge now of the Filipino progressives and their counterparts is three-pronged: one, the immediate task to consolidate the formidable force of the growing number of migrant (OFW and BPO) workers; two, the necessity to develop cooperations with workers in developing and developed countries, in both countries sending and receiving migrant workers; and, three, the large scale work of directing longterm policy from growth to sustainable and equitable development, while providing security and safety nets for the workers and their families.

The first two tasks prove daunting enough. But the growing labor market that transcends national borders provides progressives with a promising international network of skilled cadres. Workers from developing countries should be empowered to collectively bargain and not to take part in the bidding for the cheapest labor. Decent jobs should be a universal standard applied in and demanded by workers in developed and developing countries. If perhaps progressive movements can once again consolidate their ranks, the third task of directing government policies will necessarily follow.

Progressive Youth Groups’ Statement Against GMA’s Escape

We, the Filipino Youth, condemn the brazen acts of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to evade culpability for her crimes. The recent temporary restraining order (TRO) granted by eight justices of the Supreme Court (SC) is a clear tailor-fit court order to favor Arroyo. The unusually speedy process to grant the TRO and even the release of the TRO to Arroyo’s lawyers beyond office hours were all indicative of the leverage granted to Arroyo.

What is even more abhorrent is the cavalier use of the words “rights” and “democracy” to justify her escape from the country and that any attempt to prevent her from doing so would constitute a violation of those two cherished words. It seems that Arroyo wishes to taunt her victims, the Filipino public, by using the very rights they deprived from others to escape accountability.

Arroyo deserves no compassion from the Filipino public. First, her situation is not dire. The statement of Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona confirms that there are sufficient medical facilities and skilled medical experts to treat her ailment. Moreover, Dr. Leo Olarte of the Philippine Medical Association has opined that Mrs. Arroyo is on her way to recovery.

Second, she has the sufficient resources to pay for the best facilities and doctors in the country. Unlike millions of Filipinos, she has a team of doctors to attend to her medical needs and has foreign medical experts abroad to treat her common illness.

Third, and most important, the nine years of her presidency were marked by much grave abuse of rights and democracy. Now, Arroyo’s camp speaks of rights but during her presidency, human rights violations against media practitioners, political activists, and ordinary citizens were rampant.

Now, they speak of democracy when during her term, she orchestrated massive cheating during the 2004 and 2007 elections. This huge irony seems to escape them. No amount of disastrous acting or theatrics to garner sympathy can whitewash the gross acts of corruption, electoral sabotage, plunder, and impunity she and her cohorts committed.

We challenge the eight justices of the Supreme Court to resign should Arroyo not return to the country as she promised. We believe that those who aided Arroyo in her attempt to escape should not go scot-free and wash their hands.

We also call on the public to express their indignation against Arroyo’s attempt to flee the country. We must never take this sitting down. We cannot allow those who have robbed us of our rights to use the same rights to escape accountability.

No to GMA’s escape!

– Akbayan Youth

– Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP)

– Movement for the Advancement of Student Power



Commemorating triumphs, registering struggles (The Akbayan Youth Statement honoring Labor Day)

The 1st  of May – a day of victory and continuing struggle, Akbayan Youth herds to the symbolic Mendiola to celebrate the triumphs accomplished by the working class and to register the battles that must be fought.

The rapid inflation rate and poverty prevalence are causing a hole in the back pockets of many Filipinos. In this nation, where unemployment is just so vast, citizens tend to take on any jobs available and take perils of insufficient wage and minimum benefits.

For the moment, while the system of employment is still not amenable for wage increase, we push for an increased non-wage benefit. Should we not give up insisting for an increased wage, we still encourage and urge the administration to at least, craft necessary economic policies that will bring it closer to the “living wage” where workers can passably attend to the fast-rising cost of living.

As we continue fighting for sufficient and humane wage, it is also important to ensure that private sectors also aid to maintain the permanency of a worker’s employment. This bill will stop the bleeding caused by market’s greed for profit.  Many companies also restrict union activity, preventing the creation worker’s solidarity that will lead to the betterment of their lives. In the rural areas, many farmers, who toil as much if not more than their urban counterparts, are still subject to the whims of big landowners. Women, on the other hand, toil not only in companies, but in homes where their labor is not only subject to the control of market forces, but also the machismo of men.

As we believe that the government should have interventions to private sectors, we appeal to the administration to certify the security of tenure bill as priority legislation. This bill will also ensure that stipulations in the Labor Code are implemented accordingly. Given these measures, there will be a secured and safe employment that will be provided for the people.

Compounding the issues of contractualization, union of workers, women’s right, peasants’ dependency on landowners and urban poor’s concern is the fact that the Philippine unemployment rate has changed very little since 2006 (vacillation from 7-8 percent). Nearly half of these are young people, many of whom enter the workforce after paying huge sums to a largely privatized educational system.

As a response, instead of strengthening the capital of the existing industries, government should invest more on supporting the SMEs and on the number of laborers to construct and maintain public infrastructure.

Working for a just way of living is what we aim as individuals and as workers and a just way of living is reflective on two major factors—income and necessities. The fast tracking increase of the basic needs prices is not equitable with the worker’s salary, as discussed. Basic needs, we deem, should be the top priority of the government. Workers find it very hard to provide humane living for their families as the government still has minimum mechanisms to regulate the price, specifically the price of fuel. Fuel price hikes reflect the movement of the price of fuel in the global market down to the price of the most basic and essential needs of the people.

Apparently, just like the increased wage, government should have at least, partial control of the market. Monitoring is an important initial methodology to take the succeeding actions as leaving the market alone to impose its own policy continues to fail the people.

Also, a warning of rice shortage is still upbeat. Making sure that there will be enough local warehouses with domestically produced rice will be an effective initiative for the government to increase the fluidity of rice flow in the country. It will also ensure government’s control over the price of rice. Government should also give enough support, may it be technologically and financially, to small local producers.

We recognize the government’s effort and dedication in trying to melt down graft and corruption as its main mechanism in alleviating poverty. However, we still strongly believe that economic reforms should be the center of all these actions. Again, we firmly believe that market is driving this society and so the governments should intervene to successfully eradicate poverty.

On top of all the young workers’ issue lies the issue of deteriorating quality of education in the Philippines. We still believe that failure to reform education equates to failure to providing decent work and decent future for the youth. We deem that education, as one of the basic social services, should be provided to each and every individual to be able to attain decent living in the near future.

The Aquino administration has proven its dedication to combat corruption in the Philippines. The resignation of Ombudsman Merciditas Gutierrez was merely the first triumph in an anti-plunder crusade. This crusade will ultimately allow the government to have more money to spend on basic services such as education. An administration serious about anti-corruption will benefit the working class. Despite this, Akbayan Youth recognizes the many challenges ahead.

Akbayan Youth also recognizes that the struggle for worker’s rights transcends the fight for good governance. Regardless of who occupies the seat of power, the working class struggle will not strengthen without the spirit of solidarity. It is through mass struggles and collective action that we truly commemorate the spirit of May 1st.

“Archbishop Palma, You Don’t Know What Terrorism Is” –Risa Hontiveros

This morning on the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer was an article, “It’s come to this:  Bishop calls RH backers terrorists.”

Mawalang-galang lang po, Cebu Archbishop and CBCP Vice-president Jose Palma, you don’t know what terrorism is.  Terrorism is women having no access to the information, supplies and services to be able to plan their families with their husbands or partners through the natural or modern methods of their choice.   It is women burdened by unwanted, unplanned or ill-timed pregnancies.  It is women heartbroken by the malnutrition, nakedness, exposure to the elements, ignorance and sickness of their beloved too-numerous children, who have little or no chance in life.

Archbishop, you don’t know what terrorism is.  It is young people kept ignorant of the beauty and responsibility of human sexuality, burdened by teenage pregnancy, struck by sexually transmitted diseases.

Archbishop, you may disagree with us about reproductive health, but please stop calling us names like “terrorists.”  Better to address the issues faced by women and young people.

Archbishop, calling us “terrorists” is an example of the demonization of RH advocates which invites irrational, anti-women and hateful attacks which have no place in a democratic debate.  For example, on Twitter, I and other RH advocates have been called “anti-Christ,” “demonyo,” “kampon ni Satanas” and “bitch.”

Archbishop, please remember that you are a priest of the One Who preached empathy, respect and peace.

Marcos: a dictator, a murderer, never a hero – Akbayan Youth

Marcos: a dictator, a murderer, never a hero – Akbayan Youth

Press Statement on Marcos’ burial in “Libingan ng mga Bayani”

The sacrifices of our national heroes have given birth to our nation. It is through their pain that the fruits of independence and sovereignty are enjoyed by all. In celebrating the Araw ng Kagitingan, the nation pays homage and tribute to those who gave a part of themselves to give meaning and substance to the values on which our republic stands on.

We, in Akbayan Youth, remember, give respect and honor those who sacrificed and are rightfully heroes, named and unnamed. We strongly oppose granting the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos such title and an esteemed place in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

We believe that the Libingan ng mga Bayani stands for something. They are not empty words or a trivial name given to a cemetery. They stand for heroism. They stand for honor. They stand for sacrifice. Those are things we cannot associate with a dictator. To do so would to consider fact as false and history as hearsay. To consider Marcos as a hero would be to consider his regime as heroic and justify the excesses of military rule as necessary if not praiseworthy. With a simple burial we will praise a dictator whose regime imprisoned and killed thousands, driven the military to corruption, and ran the economy to shambles as a hero and condemn those who opposed him as the villains. We cannot stand for that.

Unless we do not value history, we remember that Marcos was never called a hero by the hundreds of student activists during the first quarter storm of 1970 that were bludgeoned, punched and kicked, surely not by the people of Cordillera when he threatened to dam the Chico river and destroy their communities or the people of Mindanao when he waged his war of attrition against the Bangsamoro. Even for those alive when he was deposed, they cannot call him a hero. He could never have been a hero by those in EDSA who faced tanks sent by him.

Many will definitely say, “Is this not simply an act of vengeance, of vendetta?” To be clear, we do not oppose Marcos and his family’s right to have him buried in the country. Any Filipino deserves such a right, even those his regime has killed and whose remains cannot be found to this day. We do not close our hearts to forgiveness so long as the debts of justice are settled. This is not simply being stubborn about a seeming trivial matter. What is definitely stubborn is to insist that a dictator is a hero. It is vengeance to impose more than two decades of brutal rule and taunt the victims with a hero’s burial for the dictator. It is vendetta to depose a tyrant only to have him raised to the status of hero by those who are blind to facts.

Internet Interrogation

Internet Interrogation

By Marlon Cornelio[1]

An interesting article, entitled “Facebook ‘pushing Filipino rebels into oblivion’” [2] written by Agense France –Presse (AFP), came out of the Inquirer today (7 April 2011). Government peace negotiating panel (GRP) Chief Negotiator Alex Padilla was quoted saying that the internet helped steer away university students from the rebels. Rebellious youth vent online, in Facebook for example, rather than take up arms against the state. Padilla noted that most rebel leaders are over 70 as “there has been a lack of, or dearth of youthful ideologues actually being brought up.”

While the article clearly refers only to leftist rebel groups – the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), the issue on the effect of internet on activism, in its different shades and forms, has steered much debate.

But before going into the debate, there are just some points that need to be clarified: (1) the left, and/or the activist, in the Philippines do not refer to a single entity; (2) while activism is usually associated with the different groups in the left movement, the left does not have the monopoly on activism; (3) the left movement, in broad terms, can be classified into the democratic (or ‘moderate’) and the undemocratic (or the ‘extreme’); and (4) the difference between the broad division is hardly recognized by some people in the media, the armed forces, including the police, as well as the public. Rigoberto Tiglao, for example, mistakenly interchanged Akbayan from Bayan Muna[3].  Though the democratic left is fast gaining support from the public, still, in general, being left or an activist is projected and perceived negatively. By this perception alone, fewer and fewer young people are interested into being an activist, more so a leftist. Possibly, similarities in activism among young people in other countries can be seen.

With this context, the contending side of the debate, whether or not the internet (or the web) is advantageous or disadvantageous to activists and activism, particularly on the process of democratization, is better framed. However, the case of CPP-NPA can also be a different issue all together. I could be that with or without the internet, young people, even wanting change or being an activist, do not see that taking up arms as a reasonable form of struggle or of activism.

This paper explores this debate by characterizing the internet, more specifically Web 2.0 and its impact on democracy and authoritarianism, most of which are discussed in Evgeny Morozov’s “Net Delusion.”[4] The paper also presents a challenge to internet/web users – citizens and activists, to interrogate the value of the web in advancing democratic and progressive agenda.

Web 2.0: the User-Friendly Version

From a user’s perspective, the main difference between the web in its earlier form, web 1.0, and what is now called web 2.0, is the end-users active participation in developing the platform as well as creating content.

Tim O’Reilly[5], one notable pioneer on web 2.0, notes of seven core competencies or features of web 2.0:

  • Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
  • Trusting users as co-developers
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

(emphasis supplied)

In these core competencies, the role that the end-user is assuming is highly notable. Another pioneer in the web 2.0 discussion, Paul Graham[6] , on the other hand, accounts for 3 components of Web 2.0:

1.       Ajax (refers to a broad group of web technologies that can be used to implement a web application that communicates with a server in the background, without interfering with the current state of the page)

2.       Democracy (or the users ability to select and produce content, i.e. wikipedia)

3.       Do not maltreat users (or user-friendliness)

Graham echoes Reilly while focusing more of the importance of the end-user and the web’s democratization value. For Graham, Web 2.0 signaled the revival of the web and the realization of its intent to be a collaborative and democratic medium.

Web 2.0, in this sense, empowers the users to create and manage web content. It makes users both consumers and producers. It changed the position of users from passive receivers to active participants.

photo credit: http://www.salon.com

Democracy 2.0

With web 2.0, applications like google, wikipedia, social networking site like facebook, and blogs, users or people/citizens have also be empowered in their socio-political life through access to information, knowledge production, expression of opinion or dissent, networking, collaboration and mobilization. In turn, this leads to heightened awareness, greater participation, or overall democratization. This is evidenced by the central role of the web and ICT in the expression in dissent in authoritarian states and the successive uprisings in the Middle East which allegedly was mostly organized through social networking platform and through texting (SMS). This was also observed in the second people power uprising in the Philippines.

The web, particularly 2.0, in these instances, has accelerated the end of authoritarianism and facilitated the process of democratization. Web 2.0 has become a powerful tool for democratization. It has become a potent weapon against authoritarian rule. Following the same analyses, the United States State Department espouses an ‘internet freedom agenda[7]’ which includes promotion of democracy through the internet or the web. This agenda capitalizes on the successful web-facilitated uprising and hopes to spread it like a wild fire in other authoritarian states.

Authoritarianism 2.0

While the US State Department and other actors see the events in the Middle East as a case of democracy facilitated by the web and internet, others, like Evgeny Morozov[8] views it as net delusions: cyber-utopianism and internet-centrism.

“Cyber-utopianism” is the belief that technological innovations would spread democracy to oppressed peoples of the world. Specifically, it is the belief that the culture and use of the internet is inherently emancipatory. “Internet-centrism”, meanwhile, is the belief that every question or problem in our modern society and politics can be framed in terms of the internet. Consequently, answers and solutions can be found or achieved using the internet.

Evgeny Morozov refers to these two as net delusions in his new book “The Net Delusion: How not to liberate the World” (2011). Morozov argues that the west’s reckless promotion of technological tools as pro-democratic agents caused provocation of authoritarian regimes to crack down on online activities, using different approaches: not just closing down or blocking websites, but using social networks to infiltrate protest groups and track down protesters, seeding their own propaganda online, and generally out-resourcing and out-smarting their beleaguered citizenry. Morozov further argues that the internet/web, rather than enhancing democracy and the fight against authoritarian regimes, creates tolerance and cripples dissent among citizens through the provision of ‘convenient’ activism, entertainment and ‘noise’. Morozov calls this as ‘spinternet’ or using internet in propagating and institutionalizing authoritarian regimes’ ‘spins’; and ‘slacktivism’ or providing a compromised and compromising internet activism, to subliminally discouraging activism and dissent.

With specific examples from Iran, China, Cuba, Russia, Belarus, among others, Morozov comes strong in destroying the myth of world liberation through the internet and the illusion of ‘internet freedom’. He puts the blame on the aggressive campaign of the west that have resulted to crackdown and subversion of the internet by authoritarian regimes. Morozov also pities the ‘helpless’ media, development organizations, and netizens (citizens using the internet) in their ill-informed usage of the internet and the web.

Morozov, towards the end of his book, provides a counter proposal for cyber-utopianism and internet-centrism. This he calls cyber-realism: review of the existing pillars of internet; decentralization in regional internet policy making; localized approaches to internet, among others. Unfortunately, Morozov had very limited space in his book left for this. However, the message is clear: while the web can be used as a tool to promote democracy, it can also be used to suppress it.

Activism 2.0

Clearly, the internet and web 2.0 can be utilized for both democratization and authoritarianism. While ordinary users and activists are slowly discovering the potentials presented by the online platform in advancing their progressive agenda, authoritarian governments with the aide of multinational companies have sped up, full-throttle, in subverting the developing online systems in propagating their regimes and crushing dissidents with more precision and accuracy, thanks to all the information that users gladly provided.

Web users – citizens and activists must not fall into this technological trap.

Activists in particular must (re)assess the value, as well as the potential peril, in utilizing the internet and the web as tools in their work. Activists must interrogate that web at all the different levels; (1) the system or the tool; (2) the content or the message; and (3) the impact on the citizenry. In analyzing the system and the tool the following questions can be asked:

1.       In a programmed environment, as the web, who is really the one in control?

2.       How much information is the user giving away in his/her participation or collaboration in these online platforms?

3.       What safety nets, if these are possible, should be put in place to protect the user?

In analyzing the content or the message, activists can outwit the ‘spinternet’ by questioning:

1.       What propaganda are passed off by the regime as that of an ordinary user?

2.       What lies are being established as facts?

3.       What content are being censored or dominant in the new media?

The validity of ‘slacktivism’ can be tested by questioning:

1.       Who has access to the web and the internet?

2.       How is the web being perceived by users?

3.       How is net-activism contributing to the advancement of progressive and democratic agenda?

The actual cases presented by Morozov provide sufficient guide for a continuous interrogation of the internet and the web. Activists must step up as well.

[1] Marlon Cornelio is a youth activist in the Philippines. He is currently the Vice President of Akbayan Youth, a democratic socialist formation, the youth wing of Citizen’s Action Party (AKBAYAN).

[2] Agence France-Presse(AFP) . Facebook ‘pushing filipino rebels into oblivion’. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 04/07/2011. Available Online: http://technology.inquirer.net/infotech/infotech/view/20110407-329906/Facebook-pushing-Filipino-rebels-into-oblivion

[3] Tiglao, Rigoberto. Outlook:Frency Against Merci-Eyes on the Senate. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 03/16/2011. Available Online: http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20110316-325845/Frenzy-against-Merci-eyes-on-the-Senate

[4] Morozov, Evgeny. 2011. The Net Delusion: How not to liberate the world.

[7] cited in Morozov, 2011.

[8] Ibid.