By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THE leading contenders for the presidency are not too old for Facebook.
In the digital race to get more “fans” and online “supporters,” Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party is ahead of the pack.
So far, on their official pages in the online social networking site, Aquino has 210,988 supporters; Sen. Manuel Villar (Nacionalista Party), 158,016 fans, plus 2,756 in two other Facebook public profiles; former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (Lakas-Kampi-CMD), 26,907 fans and 3,100 supporters; Sen. Richard Gordon (Bagumbayan), 2,894 supporters, and former President Joseph Estrada (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), 4,050 supporters.
Estrada has another Facebook account with 421 fans.
Sen. Jamby Madrigal (independent) has 201 fans, while the two youth group accounts of Olongapo Councilor JC de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran) have 861 and 71 members.
The Inquirer made the count at 3 p.m. Saturday, but the figures continued to change at press time.
New Media Team
Aquino breached the 200,000 mark when, in the first hours of the New Year, one Abygail Salcedo clicked the “supporter” button in his site.
Salcedo was responding to the campaign being waged by the volunteer “Noynoy New Media Team,” which has launched an online drive in the run-up to the May 2010 elections.
The team welcomed this development in a statement saying: “201,000th fan marks beginning of 2010 for Noynoy’s online supporters.”
It also said the continuing surge showed the “unwavering momentum” of Aquino’s candidacy for the presidency.
Over the holidays, Aquino supporters from all over the world rallied friends and relatives by forming sign-up brigades, personally inviting friends, forwarding e-mails and painting their profile pictures yellow (the candidate’s campaign color).
Some supporters donated a few dollars a day to widen their reach and advertise their support on the social network.
What surveys say
“The breaching of our goal cements what the polls have been consistently saying for the last four months,” said New Media Bureau head Vicente Romano III.
It was a reference to Aquino’s consistent No. 1 position in the political surveys.
“The momentum is unbroken, Filipinos are steadfastly heeding our call for genuine change in this country,” Romano said, adding:
“This only proves that if we work together and put our hearts into it, we can accomplish great things.”
Aquino’s fan page amassed more than 80,000 new supporters in 20 days. And the 201,000 target was easily surpassed, widening the gap between Aquino and his rivals by more than 50,000 supporters.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the number of online fans and supporters would translate to votes come election day.
Aquino, Villar, Teodoro, Gordon and Estrada uploaded their photoshop-edited profile pictures. But only Villar is smiling in his photo; the rest are shown in a pensive or serious mood.
With the tagline “Gordon, Bayani (Hero),” the senator who heads the Philippine National Red Cross is shown hugging a baby and holding a megaphone—a picture taken while he was mobilizing volunteers and rescuers during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo early in the 1990s.
Gordon’s campaign slogan: “Leadership must be earned, not bought nor inherited.”
Villar is shown wearing his orange campaign color against a green backdrop, a way of reminding voters that his running mate, Sen. Loren Legarda, has championed environmental causes for over two decades.
His campaign theme: “Galing sa mahirap, para sa mahirap (From the ranks of the poor, for the poor).”
Teodoro’s slogan, emblazoned below his picture, is: “Galing, Talino: para sa mabilis na pagbabago (Skill and intelligence: for quick change).”
Estrada wears the formal barong Tagalog in his profile picture. His slogan is: “Walang tutulong sa Pilipino kung hindi ang kapwa Pilipino (Filipinos cannot rely on anyone other than themselves).”
All five candidates intentionally put “currently running for president” or “presidential standard-bearer” in their profile information.
Facebook defines itself as a social utility that connects people with friends.
The political operators and strategists of the presidential candidates might have been inspired by US President Barack Obama, who managed to raise half a billion dollars online in his 21-month campaign for the presidency.
The digital campaign—the use of e-mail, text messages and social networking sites like Facebook and Multiply—was a big factor in Obama’s victory in 2008.