Philippine president embraces social networks

Country's population can now visit presidential Web site and air their grievances "directly" to President Benigno Aquino III via popular social networks including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

MANILA--Filipinos can now interact with their country's ruling head, Benigno "Noynoy" C. Aquino III, via popular online social networking applications that have been integrated into the president's official Web site.

Herminio Coloma, chief of the presidential communications office for operations, told local media the new and improved site support access to and via networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube so Filipinos can directly air their sentiments to Aquino.

The president had relied heavily on the online medium to attract votes from the younger generation and overseas Filipinos during the country's presidential election in May, where his team used social networking sites to campaign his anti-corruption messages.

In an earlier speech, Aquino promised he would make himself more "accessible" to his constituents either through traditional channels or through relatively new channels such as the Internet.

According to Coloma, the new site features a feedback mechanism using social networking sites. The design of the Web site is a marked transformation from the previous Web site which featured mostly "static" content and did not have integrate social networking or feedback tools.

He said the new government is urging citizens to participate and use the Internet more to interact and air their concerns to the president. Coloma further hinted that other government sites or portals such as the Department of Finance, will follow suit and provide more interactivity and feedback mechanisms to citizens.

In an AFP report, Coloma was quoted to say: "[Aquino] will visit [the presidential site] every day in the same way he did during the campaign when he kept himself abreast in sentiments in Facebook.

"[This] is a commitment of the national leadership to rebuild trust in government and ushering in a new era, a new culture of governance," he said, adding that local government agencies will also be able to monitor issues and concerns posted on the site.

Aquino has some 1.9 million fans on Facebook and over 124,600 followers on Twitter.

According to comScore, the Philippines had the highest penetration of social networking usage in the Asia-Pacific region in February 2010, where 90 percent of the country's online population had visited a social networking site and the average user spent 5.5 hours visiting such sites. Facebook was the most popular social network in the country that month.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.