Social media, specifically Facebook, could be the crucial platform and news distribution system that will determine the next Philippine President in 2016. Traditionally, the incumbent President has the upper hand in choosing an anointed one. It worked once in 1992 when outgoing President Cory Aquino endorsed her Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos in a controversial move that split the administration party. In 1998, President Ramos supported close ally Speaker of the House Jose De Venecia Jr. but the movie star Joseph Estrada won. In 2010, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo raised the hand of her Secretary of Defense Gilbert Teodoro in a move considered to be a “kiss of death” and true enough Teodoro fared miserably (landing at fourth place) compared to the winner, current President Benigno Aquino lll. Today, as the popularity and satisfaction ratings of Noynoy Aquino continue to fall due to among others, the Mamasapano incident, the slow Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation, the Supreme Court losses regarding the PDAF and DAP pork barrel funds (both declared unconstitutional) and a general belief in his incompetence, presumptive Liberal Party nominee DILG Secretary Mar Roxas may not necessarily gain votes by being associated with and endorsed by P-Noy. On the other hand, the ties that bind the two (Roxas gave way
to Aquino to run for president and slid down to run as vice-president but lost) are “strong” so Roxas may be stuck with an endorsement from a lame duck president.
The next factor that determines outcomes in political exercises is the traditional mass media. However, due to the introduction and general acceptance of smartphones, laptops, tablets and other hand-held devices, fewer and fewer Filipinos are buying or reading newspapers thus negating possible advantages for candidates with money to burn. Online news is the default position mainly because it is free. There is little experience, however, on the use of the Internet in the determination of winners in national and local elections.
Now, here comes social media, which is credited for the fall of authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Facebook and Tweeter were also instrumental in mobilizing hundreds of thousands of protesters for the anti-pork barrel rallies in the Philippines is 2013. In 2014, social media contributed largely to the Occupy Central (Hong Kong) protest movement. In other words, social media, primarily Facebook, now has a successful history of political mobilizations with spectacular results.
The candidates for national office (President, Vice President and Senators) would best be advised to have a sound social media strategy lest they be swept away by the fury unleashed by blogs, twits and Facebook posts.