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1000 cell phones bloom

Juan MercadoBy Juan Mercado
As Typhoon “Ondoy” hit, the scrawny fund-short disaster management systems of a VAT-rich government crumbled. Laborer Muellmar Magallanes drowned after rescuing his 31st victim: a six month old infant. This is a country where each congressmen burns P1-million for travel but can’t buy rubber boats. Onli in da Pilipins?

Flood, fire and looters ignore legal city limits. Yet, petty turf-guarding, by local mayors, gut crafting needed metro-wide program. This is true whether in Manila or Cebu.. Private citizens, meanwhile, mustered cellphones to patch “Ondoy” rescue and relief projects.

“Let a thousand cell phones bloom” urged an unlikely coalition of “trapos” and rebels in July 2005. Phones would send People Power boiling into streets after the President’s State of the Nation address.
“They did that to oust Joseph Estrada” in 2001, “Viewpoint” recalled then. “But cellphones didn’t ring twice this time, .”

First generation cellphones appeared six years after People Power One. Underground radio, a samizdat_ press and tele-women formed the 1986 Edsa uprising’s network. Foreign tv and radio broadcast that peaceful rebellion.. Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” and Ukraine’s “Orange Uprising” cloned Edsa.

Today’s phones have built-in SMS, Internet, video cameras. Iranians broadcast the Revolutionary Guards’ brutal suppression of demonstrators.. Japanese use the phones as “electronic wallets”, mainly to shop. .Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus linked Bangladesh’s poorest families to credit by pooled cell phones. Grameenphone now has 10 million subscribers Seven million Chinese hefted cellphones in 1996. A 38-fold explosion resulted in 269 million subscribers by 2003, Worldwatch Institute notes. Today, over 600 million Chinese – approximately six Philippines — text or call.

Phones morphed into cultural symbols.. Chinese funerals feature paper cellphones, so in the afterlife, the deceased can call, “The phone is a metaphor of cultural practices,” notes Anthropologist Genevive Bell.
Mobile cellular subscribers are scattered from Sao Paulo, Manila to Johannesburg. They exceeded four billion this year, International Telecommunications Union records show.. “Every second person in the world today, in theory at least, could be using a mobile phone.”

Year-on-year growth, in cellphone subscribers, never dipped below double digits, since the century’s turn,. In 2000, mobile phone penetration reached 12 per cent. By early 2008, it breached the 50 per cent mark.
Filipinos became first in the world to wage revolution with cellphones in 2001. They “provided the first real test of text messaging”. Howard Rheingold writes in “Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution”.

Minutes after Juan Ponce Enrile and 10 other senators sealed the second envelop, in the Estrada impeachment trial, text messages exploded. “Black-clad protesters (were) summoned together by a single texted line: “Go 2 Edsa. Wear black.” Cellphones ringing twice sent Erap packing.

Lebanese cloned Filipino tactics to whip up rallies that “resembled Edsa’s human waves,” wrote Christian Science Monitor’s Cathy Hong. Beirut’s “Cedar Revolution” forced Syria to end it’s 29-year occupation.
Numbers and technology have boosted the Filipino’s communication reach. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company tallied 35.2 million subscribers last year, disclosure statements to Security and Exchange Commission reveal. Smart accounts for 20.9 million subscribers and PhilTel another 14.3 million.
What do those numbers mean? Can media, this time around, “stop another martial law” debacle?” asked Cebu Press Freedom Week panels.

Marcos padlocked centralized facilities like Manila Times and jailed journalists.And Malacanang’ shifting of PMA Class ‘78 favorites into command positions is causing jitters.
The 1987 Constitution has features designed to block a President from cloning Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship. The President, for example, must immediately convene Congress to review martial law imposition.
Unlike 1972, there’d be “instant public resistance o any attempt to impose martial law,” UP professor Randy David replied. . For an answer, look beyond Internet and the cellphone, he said. Track instead the phenomenal rise of new media, Inquirer’s Manolo Quezon suggested Worldwide, eight out of every 10 persons on social networks like YouTube or Multiply are Filipinos, Jane Paredes of Smart Communications said.. And 2.47 million Filipinos use Facebook, Pinoys account for half the two million photos uploaded daily. One out of five Friendster users is Filipino. On average, Filipinos spend 19 minutes daily. in the “networked surreally flattened world of social media.”

The new media is dispersed. How do you seize 70.4 million cellphones? Not even President Arroyo’s former presidential security chief can firewall Internet, let alone Twitter which emerged this year.

Dictatorships straitjacket the consensus worldview of those they rule, Time magazine notes. “Tyranny, is a monologue.” And Twitter’s 140-character bursts shoved Iran’s President Ahmadinejad into “a court of world opinion where even Khrushchev never had to stand trial,.”

President Arroyo doesn’t want to become an Asian President Ahmadinejad She should welcome Filipinos who opt to “tweet” Malacanang:
“Let a thousand cellphones bloom.

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