BMPM: Helping democracy through a wealth of local insights
- Beth Morrissey, Princeton-in-Asia Fellow at ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs () - March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines -  Last Wednesday, March 17, ABS-CBN’s Atom Araullo reported that a mayor in Bustos, Bulacan was attempting to run for a fourth term, despite the three-term limit on all elected officials. The mayor claimed that he was eligible for a fourth term because he had been suspended from office between previous terms.

 Araullo’s report, which ran on TV Patrol, was the result of a tip sent to ABS-CBN by a Boto Patroller, a participant in ABS-CBN’s Boto Mo, iPatrol Mo: Ako ang Simula (BMPM) program. The Patroller’s email report not only furnished ABS-CBN with a tip about the story, but also supplied copies of the Commission on Elections’ rejection of the mayor’s petition to run for office as well as a sample ballot that included the mayor’s name.

During election season it is stories about candidates running for national offices that usually make the headlines. But the politicians that often have the most impact on the lives of average Filipinos are the local ones — the barangay captains, the mayors, the members of the provincial or municipal council. Yet many local politicians are not routinely covered by the media. BMPM represents an opportunity to bring stories about local politicians to light.

Just because a story is ‘locally focused’ does not mean it does not have national importance. After TV Patrol ran the story about the Bustos mayor, BMPM received a tip from a Patroller from a city in Metro Manila who reported that the mayor there was also trying to run for a fourth term. Local stories can serve as microcosms for larger issues that have impact on citizens in other areas of the country.

 In many ways citizen journalists are better equipped than regular reporters to find stories in their communities. A professional reporter is often assigned a ‘beat,’ a particular topic or geographic area he is responsible for researching and covering. A citizen naturally has a beat: his community. The average Filipino knows who the important politicians are in his community, how those politicians are impacting the community, and which election promises have been fulfilled and which have not. In this way, every citizen already has a wealth of newsworthy knowledge. BMPM provides citizens with an outlet to share this knowledge.

This type of local coverage is not just about reporting events, it is about forming and sharing opinions as well. Throughout the campaign season, the media will be rife with analysis and commentary about the presidential, vice presidential and senatorial candidates. But commentary about local officials will be far more limited.  

Through BMPM citizens can share opinions about their local officials in an impactful way. Earlier this week, a Patroller from Caloocan City used the BMPM Facebook page to decry the actions of the mayor, who the Patroller claimed posted pictures of himself on every bridge that he built. A Patroller from another province was able to empathize with this sentiment, noting “same thing in our small province in surigao..[sic].” Sharing public opinion on one of the BMPM web platforms allows citizens to discuss local political issues with those undergoing similar experiences, even if they are not living in the same communities.

 Citizens who cannot or do not want to express their opinions publicly on one of BMPM’s web platforms can send their opinions to BMPM via text message. Text messages with opinions allow the ABS-CBN news team to look for local trends that may have national importance. For example, during the local campaign period beginning Friday, March 26, BMPM will look for opinions about local incumbent candidates. Were citizen satisfied with the latest term of their local candidates? Will they vote for incumbents again? Do citizens in one province feel differently than citizens in another province? By sharing their opinions on these topics citizens will be contributing to a larger story about how effectively local politicians in the Philippines have served their communities.

 Holding local officials accountable for their actions is part of what keeps a democracy strong. As the local campaign period begins, ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs invites all citizens to share stories and opinions about their local officials. Reports can be sent via text message by texting IREPORT<space>name, address, gender, age, followed by the report to 2366. Stories can also be uploaded to the BMPM website at bmpm.abs-cbnnews.com, emailed to ireport@ABS-CBN.com, or left as voicemail by calling (02) 411-BMPM.

A PATROLLER ABS ATOM ARAULLO BMPM BOTO PATROLLER CALOOCAN CITY CBN CITIZENS LOCAL OPINIONS
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