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Opinion

Crowdsourcing politics works

FROM A DISTANCE - Carmen N. Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

When I first thought of starting a movement in social media to crowdsource a new Constitution for the Philippines, I was looking to Iceland’s template for one. Iceland’s was partly successful because it was able to crowdsource information from the people at large on what government must do in the face of the financial crisis that hit their banking industry. 

“Crowdsourcing” means “to obtain information or input for a particular task or project from a number of people, through the Internet.”

At the time, I could not foretell where crowdsourcing would lead to and was fully aware that Iceland has a smaller and more politically literate citizens. Other Filipino reformists looked instead to people’s initiatives as defined in the 1987 Constitution.

*  *  *

I was unfazed by the comparison between Iceland and the Philippines.  Out of 100 million Filipinos, statistics point to 30 percent of these internet users who would qualify for the experiment. Friends discouraged me and said well, Filipino internet users are into games and advertising products, not into spreading advocacies or political ideas.  

But I was convinced that a crucial democratic principle was involved – how to bring the many – especially marginalized sectors in decision-making. The potential was there so I made the plunge despite all the uncertainties.

We sought organized labor as the lynch point for organizing and were pleasantly surprised at the eagerness these groups to embrace the cause. Other reform groups opted for signature campaigns despite my warning that this won’t work because of how it was spelled out in the 1987 Constitution.

*  *  *

It was a worthwhile risk even if some of my colleagues in the reform movement shied away from a “useless’ effort. Bayanko was beset with infighting and false starts up to the day we opened the doors for a launch of the first crowdsourcing for politics at the Club Filipino in July 2014.

Finding the right name for the movement was fortuitous. We called it Bayanko – the most patriotic Filipino song. By sheer coincidence the song was composed in Spanish by Jose Alejandrino at the height of the Filipino war of independence against the Americans. The coincidence was god-send because a descendant of this Alejandrino living in Spain on hearing about the movement decided to return to the Philippines to help.

I already had in mind to meet with TUCP president Ernesto Herrera whom I had interviewed once as a reporter, but I did not foresee that he would play such a crucial role for the movement. Alejandrino immediately saw the advantage of using the labor movement to get at the numbers that politicians would listen to.

The crowdsourcing might have begun in the Internet but it soon spread out to warm bodies  in federations of women, informal sector and farmers that were organized all over the country. We signed and sealed partnerships with these groups and before long were joined by sympathetic religious groups. We made a presentation to the Council of Laity as well as to the PMAAers, a group of active and retired military.

They who saw the virtue of our two-phased action for constitutional reform.  The numbers of Bayanko supporters grew in leaps and bounds with close to 20 million Filipinos from different sectors in a few months. The most important of these was the informal sector which according to the World Bank counts to 17 million because of the lack of jobs were pushing the middle class to low earning small businesses.

*  *  *

With Bayanko’s success at crowdsourcing for politics, it has become a target of attacks from rival groups and critics. There is a systematic campaign of distortion against Bayanko in the formal and social media. This is inevitable as some quarters worry about the growing strength of our movement.

Here are some pertinent facts:  Bayanko has not hesitated to criticize the Aquino government on its handling of a number of issues like the unconstitutional DAP, the fraudulent PCOS machines, the SAF massacre, and the flawed BBL. It has stated openly the clumsy way the Aquino government mishandled these matters could lead to its downfall. For example, by excluding the other Muslim groups from the peace process and limiting the process to the MILF alone will not result in a lasting peace and plunge Mindanao into war. When this happens, ISIS foreign jihadists are likely to join the fray as they have done in other parts of world.

Perhaps a significant difference is that unlike other groups, Bayanko has not called for the resignation of President Aquino because it believes in leaving the door open  for dialogue. Only when dialogue is no longer possible will other options be considered.

*  *  *

Bayanko is a non-partisan movement for constitutional change. It favors a shift to a parliamentary federal system that will include the marginalized sectors of our society such as labor, including OFWs, farmers, teachers, women, and the informal sector of the economy.

It opposes the flawed BBL as being unconstitutional, discriminatory, and opening the door to the future breakup of the Republic. It believes, in place of the BBL, a Bangsamoro federal state, even two if necessary, to include all Muslim groups, must be enshrined in a new Constitution ratified by the Filipino people, not by operation of law, to guard against the unilateral secession by any state in the union without the consent of the whole Filipino people.

The crowdsourcing group is merely one member among many that make up our grand coalition for constitutional change. It believes in collective leadership. Decisions are made by an executive committee composed of the leaders of the federations and groups that have signed partnership agreements with Bayanko.

Bayanko strives for the unity of the nation. It believes a house divided will fall. The country cannot afford division when it is facing grave problems that imperil the Republic. It seeks a consensus among marginalized sectors, the churches, the military, on a common solution. It warned that if no solution is arrived at, a greater tragedy will befall the nation. It hopes for a peaceful and orderly transition to a new constitutional order.

*  *  *

Its courageous stance against the oligarchy and political dynasties has made it a target of opposition from the established political order. Because of its public disagreements with other movements calling for the outright ouster of President Aquino, it has also incurred their ire.

Bayanko  will continue to stand for the national interest because it has no political ambition.  It is open to dialogue with any group. Above all, it has faith in God.

This is where Bayanko stands. So beware of distortions intended to discredit our movement.   

 

ALEJANDRINO

AQUINO

BAYANKO

BUT I

CLUB FILIPINO

GROUPS

MOVEMENT

PRESIDENT AQUINO

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