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.

In 1995 I joined a protest action to condemn the decision of the French government to conduct nuclear tests in the Pacific. I was only a high school student at that time. We relied on mainstream journalists to document and report the rally.

In 2001 I was part of the historic Edsa Dos uprising which toppled the Estrada regime in the Philippines. Aside from mobilizing students and youth groups in Edsa, we also launched information brigades on the Internet. We sent rally updates through e-mail and e-groups. For the first time, texting became an important tool in organizing protest activities. Text jokes were used to undermine the credibility of the president.

Today, rallies are virtual, mobile and real. Street rallies are announced through various social networking sites. Photos of protest actions are instantly uploaded on the web through mobile phones. Blogging and microblogging allow ordinary citizens to express dissidence in the comfort of their homes.

Despite the limited Internet penetration rate in the Philippines, web activists have proven that cyberspace can be the terrain of political struggle. In the past decade, activist groups have been successful in maximizing new technologies to advance their advocacy. These tools are essential in reaching a broader audience.

Activists have learned that campaign strategies are more effective if offline activities are linked to online solidarity actions. On the other hand, cyber activism becomes a potent force only if it is fused with grassroots activism.

The majority of Internet activists recognize the limitations of online campaigning. But there are individuals who worship the amazing power of virtual rallies without acknowledging the disadvantages of Internet activism. This is quite disturbing since it distorts the meaning of activism: activism that truly empowers the oppressed.

Virtual activism can discourage people from participating in collective actions. Today we have students and idealist young citizens who believe that they can change the world by adding causes on Facebook or if they sign online petitions. There is a new breed of activists who spend their productive time sitting in front of a computer. Instead of organizing communities, they build virtual communities.

Online activism minus the essential offline component is impressive and creative but politically impotent. It gives a false impression that change is possible by being aggressive and passionate only in the virtual world. It prevents the educated segment of the population from developing a genuine link with the working masses.

This kind of activism does not frighten the evildoers in society. Politicians in the Philippines don’t read blogs. They don’t open their e-mail. They hire people to handle their social media accounts. They can tolerate a virtual revolution.

Activism demands sacrifice. Struggling for change is difficult because its aim is to dismantle the exploitative structures of the status quo. Those who wield power would not easily surrender their hegemony. It is important for change crusaders to learn these “inconvenient truths” about activism.

Activists who prefer traditional modes of campaigning should not worry if they are perceived as uncool and unfashionable. Their priority should be to come up with a magic formula that effectively combines elements of online and offline activism.

Activists should not be asked how many members they recruited on Facebook or Friendster. They must be more concerned about the number of people they are able to recruit in the real world.

Activists must continue to use their mobile phones, mp3 players and laptops if they want their campaigns to succeed. But to achieve their long-term goals, activists must turn off their gadgets from time to time and concentrate on the rigorous task of talking to people about the need to support and join popular and even unpopular campaigns.

Activism in the 21st century features new action words like texting, retweeting, clicking, chatting and social networking. But 20th century action words are still more persuasive and powerful – like talking, organizing, marching, pushing and rallying.

Related articles:

Texting and activism
20th century Philippines

7 Responses to “Online and offline activism”

  1. Greetings. I started to get to know You with a growing sense of admiration with- Neophyte. I am now convinced the next Congress will be at the very least provocative. And AMEN,AMEN,& AMEN… on this piece. All I can add is- that both of these may and should be exercised.
    I look forward to meeting you next week.
    Mabuhay ka,
    1st Neg. Occ.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mong palatino, Victor Villanueva, Divs, Airah Cadiogan, LiezyL gomez and others. LiezyL gomez said: activism that truly empowers the oppressed. -new bLog post by @mongster […]

    Tweets that mention Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » Online and offline activism --

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by mongster: new blog post: online and offline activism:

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  4. cool pare! knkamusta k ng mga tga north. . ingat. . .


  5. Hi Mr. Palatino

    I am a high school student in America currently writing a research paper on the effect of media in Myanmar’s rising democracy. I have a couple question to ask you and your response would be helpful for my essay. Hope to hear from you soon


  6. Dear Sir:
    May I use your article (for the second time) “Texting as a Political Tool” as a reading selection in the high school English book I am writing?
    Thank you very much. God bless.

    Alejandro Bernardo

  7. yes you may alejandro. thanks – mong


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