Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

The complete title of this post is On Being A Blogger-Politician Or Musings Of A Blogger Who Became A Politician. This is a continuation of my earlier piece about how I balance my work in Batasan and my online activities.

When Rep. Edcel Lagman confessed in a televised plenary debate that he isn’t a Catholic Congressman but merely a Congressman who happens to be a Catholic, it got me into thinking about my other less known profession which is blogging. Am I a blogger-congressman or merely a congressman who happens to be a blogger?

I’m the only House member who listed blogging as a profession and unlike some colleagues who equate microblogging and facebooking with blogging, I have been a regular traditional blogger (which means I use more than 140 characters when expressing my thoughts) since 2004.

Politician-bloggers are a dying breed because today they prefer to tweet or update their FB statuses and notes. Not that it’s wrong or unusual since a growing number of netizens and even former blog stalwarts have switched to tweeting and facebooking. But isn’t it better to read the political and philosophical musings of politicians rather than their bland everyday tweets? Isn’t it more fascinating and entertaining to read how politicians organize their thoughts through the essays they write than suffer the torture of monitoring their meaningless soundbytes and self-absorbed tweet reflections?

Of course there are politicians who hire professionals to handle their online accounts while others bombard the public with spam messages and boring youtube videos. This makes us wonder whether a politician’s blog posting is actually his own since it could be written by a PR practitioner. Maybe I’m a purist. But luckily there are public personalities, including politician bloggers, who have successfully demonstrated that they are capable of writing interesting stories.

Politician-bloggers like me face certain dilemmas. Should I livetweet during committee and plenary deliberations? But my priority should be my participation in the sessions. Should I blog the happenings and discussions in all-member caucuses? Is it appropriate to surf the web in the plenary gallery when a colleague is delivering a privilege speech? Can I post pictures of House members and visitors inside the South Wing lounge? Which is more important: Respecting the privacy of individuals or promoting transparency in governance? If I blog too much, I could be accused of being a non-performer in the legislature; but I could be reproached by fellow bloggers if I reduced my blogging activities.

There are some politicians who don’t read newspapers or listen to news reports because they are sensitive to criticism. But as a blogger, I read everything in the web. I confess to the crime of ego surfing but it’s mostly to monitor how my statements and actions are echoed in the cyberspace. It’s delightful to read the kind words of grateful constituents; it’s humbling to be reminded of my mistakes and weak arguments by wise readers; but it hurts to know that there are souls in this world who really hate me.

I’m not annoyed by childish and antagonistic remarks against my person; I can disregard the arrogant and malicious commenters; I can even understand the sentiments of individuals who reject my politics. But I’m quite affected by uninformed attacks and accusations. Maybe I’m a masochist. I still follow some nasty forum threads that discuss my work inside and outside congress.

Maybe some people arrive at wrong conclusions because they fail to recognize the dynamics of my work. Some prefer to highlight my activist identity while the lazy ones conveniently lump me with other traditional politicians. They try to boost their argument by reminding the readers that I’m a mere politician while ignoring the essential fact that I’m also a natdem activist. Meanwhile, others expect me to speak only about activist causes and our critical views against the government.

I’m often described as an activist or a young politician but I prefer to be called an activist legislator. An activist legislator who blogs. An activist legislator blogger.

But the grim and determined haters, especially the proud anti-leftists, continue to hang out as internet trolls hoping to provoke some little online wars. There are people who are ready to twist your words, distort your true intentions, and spread disinformation. Fortunately, I have learned to cultivate the right attitude in confronting these challenges thanks in no small part to my activist background and blogging experience. And writer Alain de Botton provided some additional reassuring words: “We are accused of stupidity when we are being cautious. Our shyness is taken for arrogance and our desire to please for sycophancy. We struggle to clear up a misunderstanding but our throat goes dry and the words found are not the ones met.”

Politician bloggers need the wanted and unwanted reactions of other people to gauge the effectivity of their work. But sometimes they should be the first to assess and question their performance. Bloggers often loathe politicians and those who wield power in society. They often rant against the inefficiencies in government and the wicked decisions of policymakers. But do they still despise politicians and do they still rant against authorities when they become politicians? How do politician bloggers use their influence to promote reforms within the bureaucracy?

Maybe there are bloggers who joined mainstream politics because they recognized the limitations of virtual outbursts. They are similar to journalists and TV news readers who entered politics because they got disappointed with how politicians are running the country. But blogger-politicians must learn from the experience of famous journalist-politicians who quickly discarded their idealism and passion to fight for truth after they got seduced by the dark and sinister side of the force.

This is the reason why bloggers must continue to blog even after getting elected to public office. It helps them not to forget some of the noble reasons why they decided to become active in politics and it allows them to keep in touch with netizens who are always ready to share their thoughts on various political and social issues. Blog not for blog’s sake but as a tool for political empowerment. Blog to promote transparency. Blog to reach out to the broader online community.

If Vicky Belo can successfully tap the internet to gather suggestions for the name of her new vagina tightening machine, I see no reason why politicians, especially politician bloggers, should not maximize the potential of the cyberspace to mobilize citizens and netizens in the search and struggle for new political truths. I refuse to believe that only the eternally young celebrities and hot topics like vagina tightening can spark the interest of the digital natives.

Related articles:

Blog habits
Neophyte Reflections

One Response to “On being a blogger-politician”

  1. Tweeting or posting FB statuses doesn’t make a blogger for me. The ability to think in the long form is a prerequisite for being a writer.

    Anyway, you’re in that unique position of being a critical blogger on politics while being part of politics itself. Mabuhay ka, Mong.


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