Award-winning journalist Howie Severino was at Ateneo de Davao University on Saturday, Feb. 13 for the “Makinig. Maki-alam. Makiisa: The Role of Social Media in the 2016 Elections” which is a forum on social media responsibility in politics and citizen journalism, organized by the Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Sining at Komunikasyon (SINIKOM).
The event was attended by communication students from Ateneo de Davao University, Jose Maria College (JMC), University of the Southeastern Philippines (USEP), and University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao campus.
The forum was organized in partnership with University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC), Blue Vote 2016, Ateneo Task Force 2016, and the Mass Communication Department of Ateneo de Davao University.
UCEAC Director Romeo Cabarde Jr. in his opening remarks said social media can either be a blessing or a curse, and in order to maximize its potential, it should be used to campaign for good governance.
“Good governance begins with vigilant citizenry,” said Cabarde.
The impact of social media
Meanwhile, Severino in his lecture titled, “Cyberspace: A Revolutionary, Perplexing, and Dangerous World”, cited that the Philippines ironically tops surveys on Internet usage despite it having one of the slowest and most expensive Internet connection speed in the world.
The implication of this, said Severino, is that social media can have a great impact on the country’s political sphere because of the time spent by Filipinos online. This has also paved way for citizen journalism, said Severino, referring to news that ordinary, non-media citizens post on Facebook and Twitter.
For Severino, social media has the power to change the political landscape of the Philippines, telling the students, “You have all the power and that power is in your hands.”
“A digital device coupled with social media and political freedom creates the most empowered generation in Philippine history,” he said.
Social media should be used for political scrutiny, he added. “It is our right, written in our constitution, to criticize our government and our politicians,” he explained.
The Filipino voter
Ateneo Political Science and History Dept. Chair Ramon Beleno III also gave a lecture in the said event. His presentation titled, “Paano ba Bumoboto si Juan?” tackled on Filipinos’ voting behaviors. According to Beleno, these behaviors such as territorial, personality, patronage, and bandwagoning, indicate the predictability of the outcome of Philippine Elections.
“Philippine elections is very predictable, even the time that weddings of politicians will be held can be predicted,” said Beleno, referring to the weddings of Chiz Escudero with actress Heart Evangelista and Mar Roxas with news anchor Korina Sanchez.
Filipinos also tend to lean towards celebrities, said Beleno, referring to the celebrities who have endorsed politicians both in the past and in the current election season.
Furthermore, Filipinos’ territorial voting behavior, according to Beleno, leads to the formation of political dynasties when local leaders dominate the political sphere, with the likes of the Binays, Aquinos, Dutertes, and Ampatuans, among others.
Role of the youth
Severino and Beleno reiterated the role of the youth in Philippine politics at the end of the event.
There are many things that we should look out for in social media, including hashtags, said Severino. “Hashtags are meant to trend and change public opinion.”
Mobile data and free Facebook plans can also work to our disadvantage, said Severino.
“When we are on free data and we scroll down news articles that are being shared on Facebook or Twitter, we cannot open it. We just see the headlines which can be manipulated,” he said.
Severino also urged the students to practice verification in reading news articles.
“Always try to verify what you see and read because it (headlines) can possibly be manipulated,” said Severino.
For Beleno, the youth is the game-changer of Philippine elections.
“If you notice, politicians are targeting the youth kasi kayo yung pinakamarami,” said Beleno to the students.
For the audience, the forum proved to be a timely and knowledgeable event.
“Social media is more than just for selfies, but it’s an avenue for us to spread awareness to our peers, most especially on political issues on election season,” said communication student Frazn Sta. Teresa.
“Let us not limit ourselves to posting, liking, and sharing because being knowledgeable only is not enough. Be engaged. Set a good example for the youth,” she added.