TXTPower: Texter's Org, Consumer's Force

People Power 2 was a big party for us texters. During those four days and four nights, we marched, laughed, chanted and texted our way to EDSA and Mendiola until Joseph Estrada — widely believed to be corrupt and inefficient — was ousted from the presidential palace.

During the period, our generation, the Filipino Generation Txt, evolved from the mostly gimmick-centered techies to concerned technology-savvy young citizens. We discovered that our cell phones and personal computers could actually be compatible with concepts such as people’s rights, truth, democracy, justice, and power of the people.

After the revolt, our texter’s lives continued as usual but not without attentiveness to what’s happening around us. So when Globe and Smart, the competing telecommunication companies that provide cellular phone services and text messaging or SMS, slapped us on August last year with the hushed announcement of free text cut, our immediate reaction was similar to that of during the Estrada impeachment trial after the venerable chief justice announced in a sad voice, “The no votes have it.”

Email messages protesting the reduction of free text clogged our inbox (I clearly remember forwarding these messages to my e-groups); disapproval of the telecoms’ plan dominated the online discussion boards; and text messages encouraging texters to join the September 1 boycott were circulated.

Amid all the decentralized expressions of disapproval and disgust, a bunch of People Power 2 participants formed themselves into a group that would speak up for the enraged texters. TXTPower, a texter’s organization dedicated to the advancement of the rights of the consumers, was born.

Anthony Ian Cruz, media officer of Bayan, an umbrella alliance of various people’s organizations, relates how they started with TXTPower, “It was very clear that the consumers disapproved of the free text cut, but nothing was happening. So around that time, I thought the free text cut was an appropriate issue enough to form a consumer group in that would help the consumers to be aware of our rights; for the phone users to understand that it’s not legal, it’s not lawful to cheat other people.”

Hey, who was cheating who?

The reason given by corporate spokespersons of Globe and Smart in justifying the free text reduction was that they had to do it to because they were losing money. They said they needed to cut the promotional free text to able to finance equipment upgrade.

But financial statements posted on their companies’ respective Web sites showed these companies were doing well. By the middle of 2001, Globe had a total of 15.4 billion Philippine pesos in gross operating revenues or 84.6% increase from PhP8.4 billion for the same period in 2000. Its net income for the first quarter of the year is PhP1.07 billion

Smart, on the other hand recovered from a loss of nearly PhP1.9 billion in the first half of 2000 to a net income of PhP1.8 billion in the same period in last year. Its subscriber revenues in 2001 was PhP12.3 billion–an 85.3% increase from revenues of PhP6.6 billion the year before.

During that time, the numbers of subscribers were continually increasing. And these companies were telling us they were losing money. Refusing to be fooled by these pronouncements, Anthony called up his friends, who are also texters like him, and asked them to form the core group of TXTPower.

Student leader Raymond Palatino of the National Union of Students of the Philippines was among them. Sandra Araullo, a well-known athlete and ‘crush ng bayan’ (heartthrob) at the UP Diliman, as well as broadcaster Ruth Cervantes and environment activist Trixie Concepcion also joined the group.

College professors Roland Tolentino and Tonchi Tinio, visual artist Emil Mercado, and College Editors Guild of the Philippines national President Rey Asis also pledged to help. Completing the convenor’s group is net-activist Gerry Kaimo of PLDT.com. Gerry, though his popular satire site, led the first cyber-rally against the Estrada regime in late 2000.

The TXTPower convenors agreed to assume leadership of a September 1 text boycott. Anthony also drafted the “Texter’s Declaration” that the group improved upon and subsequently adopted. This manifesto, the unity statement of TXTPower, expressed outrage over the planned cut in the free text message. It dismissed the plan as “a blatant profiteering scheme by monopolies in the Philippine telecommunications industry whose greed for profits have become insatiable”.

When TXTPower was formally launched on August 27 last year, copies of the manifesto were circulated. It was published in both print and online media. On the Internet, we, the texters, were asked to attach our names to the document, send a copy to TXTPower and forward it to our friends.

Texters’ response was overwhelming; Anthony says they received thousands of e-mail and signatures in support of the Texters’ Declaration. I was one of the thousands who immediately expressed my solidarity with and interest in TXTPower. Being a media practitioner and cyberwriter with a growing network of cyberfriends, Anthony and Gerry invited me to join the convenors. A confessed text addict who has written articles about texting and People Power 2, I eagerly accepted the invitation and actively joined the campaign for the September 1 boycott.

While the cellular phone companies would not give exact figures, they admitted that SMS traffic on September 1 went down. Our boycott was a success! TXTPower also supported the case filed by the PLDTI before a Quezon City court to stop Globe and Smart from implementing the free text cut.

“We take inspiration from our experience in People Power 2 that power lies in the hands of a united people. As alternative information providers during the oust-Erap campaign, we think that we could make texting serve the texter’s purpose, which is to protect free text,” Anthony says.

A temporary restraining order issued by the court stalled for a brief period the free text cut. In the end, the plan was implemented, and we are now left with only 33% of the free text messages we used to enjoy.

As TXTPower celebrates its first anniversary this month, the convenors aim to transform it from just a group of convenors with a spokesperson and an online membership into a mass-based org.

The convenors are still planning to push through with the planned general texters’ assembly which will gather all concerned texters in Metro Manila into a big party. Recruitment will also be done though a TXTPower convenors’ campus tour in various colleges and universities. Online presence is also assured with the planned launching of its Web site, txtpower.com.

Texters who are interested to help form local and school chapters of TXTPower may get in touch with the convenors by sending us e-mail at txtpower@hotmail.com or through text: +639189234311 or voice call at +6329255906. The e-group is also open to all texters: groups.yahoo.com/group/txtpower. To join, just send a blank e-mail to txtpower-subscribe@yahoo.com.

As Anthony says, “TXTPower speaks the laguange of its generation using the means that the generation made popular and made the entire public accept. We have 12 million potential revolutionaries in terms of communication and advcocacy. Most of these people fought and texted away against a corrupt President until he was ousted.”

Are you one of them? Then , you might want to join us at TXTPower.

Pls pass. Tnx. �

http://bnext.net/N&I/2002/newsstory0812a02.html

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