Sunday, April 14, 2013

Can Facebook Help Candidates Win in the May 2013 Philippine Mid-term Election?

With less than a month for the May 13, 2013 Philippine mid-term election, local and national candidates are now in the homestretch of their campaign to win an elective office.

In this election, candidates spend huge amount of effort and money to carry out their activities that include shaking of hands, speaking before a crowd in a public stage and the pasting of posters in places where it is allowed to be done.                                   

The advent of the internet and the availability of social networking service site like Facebook and Twitter have made it possible for new comers and least known candidates to enhance their electoral campaign by the use of said internet sites. Candidates must however adhere to the terms and policies in using site such as Facebook since any violation can result to the banning of their account.                                                                                                                                                                      

A candidate who has an account in Facebook can make his political programs known to his friends and he can also create his own group or join other groups to maximize the number of persons he could interact with. An interesting post or topic can generate many “likes” or comments from friends and other users.

In the local level, the political landscape is usually dominated by incumbent politicians. The unscrupulous ones are wont to keep their position as long as they can because with it comes power and more money. They are derisively called traditional politicians or “trapo” whose greed is hidden in the name of public service.                                                                                                                                                                           

In a society where most of the voters belong to the “D” and “E” classes or the poor and less educated, the results of the election are always swayed in favor of the incumbent and moneyed politicians. Some astute local executives subtly establish a system of political patronage where the poor looks up to them as “benefactor” but all the while exploiting them for their political advantage.  These politicians even go to the extent of buying votes to win an election. As a result, politicians are elected not because of their integrity or competence, but because of their cunning to win election by all means. This flawed political process gives rise to social maladies like the proliferation of political dynasties and corruption because politicians have to recoup what they spent in the election.

The internet with its social networking sites such as Facebook is a tool that can help minimize the excesses of some politicians during a particular period such as election. Users can share to his friends in Facebook a report from other media such as newspapers, and they can also post blogs, photos and videos related to an event. What is good about it is that the access of Facebook is for free.                                                                                                          

Through Facebook people can seek information regarding the qualification and track records of a candidate. A positive or negative report on him can generate favorable or unfavorable perceptions or reactions. Some of the hot topics during this period are on political dynasty and corruption. Some candidates consider the latter issue as a sort of “mudslinging”. However, in a country where corruption is believed to be pervasive, it is a very valid election issue. Candidates should be a fair game to the attack so that they can refute it or clear their name before the public with regards to negative reports or allegations.

Some candidates however downplay the importance of Facebook in influencing the decision of the voters. They say that most of the Facebook users come from the middle income and upper classes of the voting population. And those belonging to classes “D” and “E” who comprised the majority of the voters do not have access of the Internet and therefore have no Facebook account so that the use of the site will only have a minimal effect on the result of the May 13 election especially at the local level. The claim maybe correct since incumbent local candidates who are flooded with negative post and bad comments at Facebook seem to be still widely and warmly received by the people especially the poor.

Facebook alone will not make a candidate win because of the many other factors that are involved in winning an election. But Facebook will certainly be of help to a candidate at the national level because of its wide coverage. At the local level Facebook will also be of help but to
a lesser extent. Local candidates therefore should exert more time and effort to reach out to the poor to win their hearts and minds in this coming May 13, 2013 mid-term election.