Thirty-five years since Filipinos toppled a dictator through People Power, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to upend how the masses gather to air their grievances -- tens of thousands of warm bodies on the streets.
There have been street protests during the year-long quarantine, but they're much thinner than before due to social distancing. When public safety requires most everyone to stay at home, how does one make his or her voice heard?
Hashtags, Twitter trends and memes have replaced megaphones and placards, at least with the threat of COVID still present. It was on social media where protesters called out Gen. Debold Sinas for partying mañanita style when everyone was required to stay home at the onset of the lockdown.
When Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni) struck last November, netizens rued the loss of ABS-CBN from the airwaves which was the source of life-saving information in far-flung areas. Most recently, #JusticeForChristineDacera topped the trends as the internet tried to make sense of a 23-year-old flight attendant's death on New Year's Day.
"Given the pandemic, online protests are great. For a long, long time, I assume that it's going to be an effective tool in gauging the public's opinion but of course, may talo din diyan--ang poor," said University of the Philippines political science professor Jean Encinas-Franco.
Quarantines challenged protesters to become more creative in getting their message across, said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.
"It's a question of finding the proper forum and proper way of carrying your protest, your argument," Casiple said. "More than the protest, ang mahalaga eh makausap niyo yung gobyerno because one point of protesting is to get the government's attention."
"If there are problems and opposition to policies and government decisions, that itself is enough reason to protest."
Why protests are more important now
With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, protests are "more important than ever" according to Casiple.
"As long as there is an issue, it's important to have a public discussion," Casiple told reportr. "It's more critical now given that this is a global crisis in all aspects--health, politics, economy. May pandemya eh."
"If people think that there is something wrong or there are problems with the government's pandemic response, more so should they protest," he added.
Encinas-Franco said protests should not be held back by the pandemic.
"You don't have to go out and be with people in the streets to have a stand. Protesting is more important now because the people need to keep the government in check. It's more important now because of the pandemic," she told reportr.