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Using Social Media to Promote Political Awareness Through the Example of the Million People March

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The Republic of the Philippines has been called the ‘promise of Asia’ and the ‘sick man of Asia’ alternately ever since its search for stability, prosperity and development began (Manrique & Manrique, 2017). This review attempts to show how the use of social media in one country, the Republic of the Philippines, has grown and has been used to encourage political awareness and participation among the Filipino masses. The country is ranked among the most technologically savvy in the world but ironically is also considered one of the most corrupt countries as well.

The 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution is one of the biggest and most admired revolution that the world has seen. It reminds people that a peaceful assembly is still possible in a complex and aggressive society. Yet again, on Aug 26, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos came together to let their voices be heard in the ‘Million People March’. The Million People March was the first of a series of protests in the Philippines calling for the total abolition of the Pork Barrel fund, triggered by public anger over the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam. The supposed Million People March was the first of a progressing arrangement of dissents in the Philippines requiring the aggregate abrogation of the Pork Barrel store, activated by open displeasure regarding the Priority Development Assistance Fund trick. Starting calls circled through online networking, primarily on Facebook and Twitter, to gather a challenge on August 26, 2013 at Luneta Park in Manila and additionally different urban areas across the nation and abroad. A few media analysts consider this as the primary ever monstrous rally in the Philippines called and sorted out generally through online networking channels (Revano, 2016).

The social media-fueled rally dubbed the ‘Million People March’ was emulated on a smaller scale in other cities across the country and in various cities around the world where there are large concentrations of Filipinos. A few called for the ouster of Aquino, the then president at the time of the PDAF scam, and there was a widespread fury with politicians. The protesters, armed with placards and pig masks, called for a change in leadership and the abolition of the pork barrel. This showed how social media and technology in general can start a change in the world.

The issue posthumously known as the ‘pork barrel scam’, is a political scandal involving the alleged misuse by several members of the Congress of the Philippines of their Priority Development Assistance Fund, a lump-sum discretionary fund granted to each member of Congress for spending on priority development projects of the Philippine government. It is estimated that the Philippine government was defrauded of some ₱10 billion in the course of the scam, having been diverted to Napoles, participating members of Congress and other government officials. Aside from the PDAF and the fertilizer fund maintained by the Department of Agriculture, around ₱900 million in royalties earned from the Malampaya gas field were also lost to the scam.

The pork barrel has been an item in Philippine appropriation laws for decades, despite intermittent criticisms of its profligacy and corruption. It was reportedly introduced when the Philippines was a colony of the United States (Nograles & Lagman, n.d). The history of the Philippines shows that colonial domination by the United States distorted the country’s economic and political system, co-opted Philippine leaders to colonial policies, and corrupted the democracy project after the Filipino revolutionaries lost the Philippine-American war of 1887. In fact, the United States bred the oligarchy that persists to the present in the form of political dynasties. It’s colonial political innovations also enabled the growth of patronage-oriented political parties.

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The defenders of the pork barrel, mostly members of the congress, have annually sponsored this appropriations item, vigorously justifying it as part of the congressional function and an important component of national development. In fact, in the midst of calls for its abolition, an undated article justifying the pork barrel system entitled ‘Understanding the Pork Barrel’ was published on the congressional website by no less than the former Speaker of the House of Representatives. His treatise stars with the rather dismissive statement that “The public cannot appreciate what it does not understand”. Furthermore, the Philippine version of the pork barrel gives legislators the post-enactment discretion to allocate lump sum funds to projects and beneficiaries selected by them, which makes it very difficult to regulate and almost impossible to audit.

In light of the protests, the Filipino hacktivist group PrivateX defaced at least thirty government websites early on August 26, hours before the main protests. These include the websites of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Embassy in Rome, Italy. Hacktivism or hactivism, a portmanteau of hack and activism, is the use of technology to promote a political agenda or a social change (anonymous, 2019). With roots in hacker culture and hacker ethics, its ends are often related to the free speech, human rights, or freedom of information movements (Mikhaylova, 2014)

On its Facebook page, Anonymous Philippines claimed that the websites of the Office of the President, Senate, Bureau of Customs, Department of Finance, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Public Works and Highways, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of the Treasury, Department of Energy, Department of Education and Department of Environment and Natural Resources were affected because of disfiguration of the sites by the PrivateX (Inquirer, 2013).

After the series of webpage defacements, the Department of Science and Technology said there was a need for a secure Web hosting government agencies and services. It noted that a July 12 administrative order mandated state agencies and government-owned and -controlled corporations to host their websites under the new Government Web Hosting Service to be provided by the DOST.

Anonymous Philippines, hacktivist, left a message on the Bureau of Customs home page as the one left on the other websites. The message read: “1987 Philippine Constitution. Article III, Section 4 states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances”.

Works Cited

  1. anonymous. (2019, March 10). Hacktivism. Retrieved March 2019, from Wikipedia:
  2. Inquirer, P. D. (2013, August 27). What Went Before: Anonymous Philippines. Retrieved March 12 2019, from Philippine Daily Inquirer:
  3. Manrique, C. G., & Manrique, G. G. (2017). Social Media’s Role in Alleviating Political Corruption and Scandals: The Philippines during and after the Marcos Regime. Political Scandal, Corruption, and Legitimacy in the Age of Social Media, 18.
  4. Mikhaylova, G. (2014). The “Anonymous” Movement: Hacktivism as an Emerging Form of Political Participation. Retrieved March 2019, from
  5. Nograles, H. P., & Lagman, H. C. (n.d). Pork Barrel. Retrieved from Republic of the Philippines House of Representatives 17th Congress:
  6. Revano, T. F. (2016). Empowerment Technologies for Senior High School. Manila: Mindshapers Co.,Inc.

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Using Social Media to Promote Political Awareness Through the Example of the Million People March. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2022].
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