Philippines’ text power promote consumer welfare and social change

by Philippine Daily Mirror

LOS ANGELES (June 6) — Filipinos’ text and cellphone power earned raves at the Beyond Broadcast 2009 conference on June 3-5 at the University of Southern California-Annenberg School for Communication in this city, with conference participants applauding Filipinos’ use of mobile phones for promoting consumer welfare and social change.

Speaking at the opening plenary session on Thursday, June 4, TXTPower president Anthony Ian Cruz shared the consumer group’s high-profile anti-text tax campaign in 2004 when irate consumers texted then-House Speaker Jose de Venecia, compelling him to set aside a bill imposing a new tax on texting.

Cruz, who was the only Filipino speaker at the conference, also shared the Hello Garci and ZTE-NBN ringtones which TXTPower in 2005 and 2007,respectively, considered the first political ringtones.

“The Hello Garci ringtones, downloaded by hundreds of thousands, became, arguably, the first political ringtones in the world. We are proud to have hosted and popularized them through our website and thereby provided Filipinos a new way to express their disgust over the fraudulent election in 2004,” said Cruz.

Cruz said Filipinos made at least three dozen ringtones, including some made by popular disc jockeys, who contacted TXTPower discreetly in 2005.

A new set of ringtones came out in 2007 soon after Jun Lozada came out to expose the NBN-ZTE broadband contract scandal that allegedly involved President Arroyo and her husband Mike Arroyo, said Cruz.

According to Cruz, TXTPower expects Filipinos “to use the growing arsenal of digital and new media tools to defeat the moves to perpetuate President Arroyo and her cohorts in power”.

Cruz told Beyond Broadcast participants that “Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, blogs and mobile phones are now conduits of protest by the public, helping social movements organize protest actions, reaching out to the otherwise politically-apathetic and preparing perhaps for the next People Power uprising”.

“We expect a new ringtone and perhaps even live citizen coverage of the upcoming anti-Charter Change (Chacha), anti-Constituent Assembly (ConAss) protest actions,” said Cruz.

Cruz, who is currently a fellow of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and a member of Bloggers Kapihan, explained that “Filipinos sometimes take for granted the way we use our cellphones. But in reality, we are among the most sophisticated mobile phone users, be it regarding the maximum use of available technologies or using them for personal end or political causes.”

Formed in 2001, TXTPower represents the country’s millions of mobile phone users in battles with telecommunication companies and even the government. A dozen young activists and professionals formed the group months after the second People Power uprising, which came to be known as a texter’s revolution due to the heavy use of texting by the protesters.

Turning eight years old in August, TXTPower continues its active campaigns that have resulted in the introduction of unlimited texting and unlimited calling deals by all telecommunications companies, the defeat of mandatory SIM card listing, and fighting the repeated attempts of the Arroyo government to impose new taxes on texting aside from the value-added taxes now levied on them.

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