As civil unrest swept over the Arab world in 2011 resulting in the overthrow of despots and dictators, Filipinos could not not help but feel a sense of deja vu. Been there, done that … 25 years ago.
This weekend is the 26th anniversary of the first People Power revolution that overthrew the Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The online news portal Interaksyon.com is marking the anniversary by highlighting the role technology – pre Facebook and Twitter – played in mobilizing the public.
“From radio in the first EDSA revolution in 1986 to cellphones during EDSA Dos in 2001, advancements in technology helped put more power from the top ranks down to ordinary people’s hands. Today, such trickling down of power is observed in the latest mass-communication medium to arise: social networking sites.”
(EDSA is one of Manila’s main drags, the thoroughfare where an estimated 2 million Filipinos converged for four days in February 1986 to protect the government troops who had turned their backs on Marcos.)
Fifteen years later, in 2001, a similar popular uprising – and again bloodless – ousted President (and former movie star) Joseph Estrada after an aborted impeachment trial for corruption.
In the first instance, it was the power of radio which brought people out onto the streets.
In the second, text or SMS from cellphones were instrumental in rallying people to come out in the streets in a mass protest against Estrada.
“At the time, the Philippines had already been dubbed the text messaging capital of the world, sending an average of 400 million messages per day. But that was because texting was a more cost-effective way of communicating than calling, back in the late 90s and early 2000s. Texting then was used to send cheesy love notes, keep tabs with friends, or forward corny jokes to friends…”Nobody then realized how texting could help spark a peaceful revolution, at least until that fateful day in January 2001 when Filipinos ousted a corrupt and philandering leader,” the Interaksyon.com article points out.
For a thoughtful examination of technology and grassroots social change over the past 25 years encompassing the Philippines, the end of communism in Eastern Europe, the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, click on to the article below.