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Philippines: Anti-Planking Bill Draws More Planks

Congressman Winnie Castelo filed House Bill 5316 after student activists planked in the middle of busy Manila City streets to express support for jeepney (public utility vehicles) drivers striking against weekly oil price hikes. Castelo's anti-planking bill defines planking as follows:

planking is when a student or group of students lies face down in unusual locations especially in streets or other public places, keeping the hands along the body and the feet outstretched and especially where such act is meant as a form of redress of grievance against government.

But instead of discouraging the plankers, the proposal only made planking even more popular among the public with critics even planking in front of Castelo's own office in Congress to mock the measure.

Tine, who was part of the group who planked in Congress, asks:

If Rep. Castelo was so concerned with safe planking then he should have filed a Safe Planking Act (not that this will work…self-regulation within the planking community would probably be better). And why target planking protests? Actually, it is safer to plank with a big group of people.

Youth groups condemn the measure for curtailing freedom of expression and its repressive proposal to draft a code of conduct for students joining protest actions.

The anti-planking bill is not only against planking as a protest form, it even restricts our students from staging protest actions. This definitely goes against the youth’s fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Blogger Tonyo Cruz reacts against the measure:

The drafting of the bill is a total waste of time and money of taxpayers. Castelo and his fellow legislators should instead waste no time in studying and adopting measures addressing the subject of the plunking protesters — warrantless oil price increases, abusive oil cartels and taxes on petroleum products.

Planking for a cause

A few months ago, planking protests were held against education budget cuts. A few days ago, thousands of students once again held massive plankings in various parts of the country as part of a weeklong nationwide campus strike against the cuts.

Contingents of the 10,000-strong march of public university students and teachers hold a mass planking in the Mendiola bridge leading to the Malacanang Presidential Palace. It could be one of the biggest planking protests in the world :

Teo Marasigan describes the mass planking protest:

Nag-planking sila papunta at nag-planking sila pagdating sa Mendiola. Dahil ginagawa nila ang tinutuligsa at sinisiraan ng mga nasa awtoridad, militante ang dating nila. Dahil marami sila, hindi sila mukhang nagkakatuwaan lang, kundi lumalabag, lumalaban.

They planked going to Mendiola and they planked when they got there. Because they did what authorities criticized and discredited, their posturing is militant. Because they are many, they do not look like they're just having fun, but transgressive and in fighting form.

The Facebook group “PLANK! For a Cause” was also created to encourage plankers to share planking photos that highlight a cause “to dramatize the militancy and creativity of the youth.” Some of the photos posted in the group includes that of human rights advocates plank for the release of all political prisoners in the country.

Another is that of activists planking to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Twitter reactions

Some reactions to the anti-planking bill on Twitter:

@planetchuckie: The Anti-Planking Act of 2011 is even more useless and absurd than the act of planking itself.

@teddycasino: An anti-planking law? Ano ito, in observance of d anniversary of martial law? This is equivalent to Marcos’ banning of Voltes 5 and Daimos.

@teddycasino: An anti-planking law? What is this, in observance of d anniversary of martial law? This is equivalent to [the late dictator] Marcos’ banning of [cartoon shows] Voltes 5 and Daimos.

@gangbadoy: @radikalchick sinusubukan kong hanapan ng deeper meaning, pero alas…alaws! Apir, Winnie the Plank.

@gangbadoy: @radikalchick I'm trying to find a deeper meaning [for the bill], but alas… alaws! Apir, Winnie the Plank.

@choihilario: Or a new game “Plank Vs. Zombies ” RT @kakanturing: RT @gangbadoy: Winnie the Plank. :) > That sounds like a good idea for a new…

@venzie: Sinong mga kongresista at senador ang willing na makiplank sa mga iskolar ng bayan bukas sa Mendiola? Game.

@venzie: Which congressman or senator is willing to plank with the people's scholars tomorrow at Mendiola? Game.

@maxenemagalona: There's an anti-planking law? Plank that. Plank you.

  • nielsky_2003

    ‘Anti-Planking Act of 2011’ as read in House Bill No. 5316 has just been blest with public attention never before seen.

    As soon as it took off, it hit the chart as the top trending topic in the Philippines and to swing back as the third most-talked about theme worldwide in the social media networking site, Twitter.

    One Carlo Ople opines that it is just a matter of time how this phenomenal social contagion spread. In short, it has reached unforeseen viral proportion as to be posted in Sunday New York Times Magazine if by way of a comic and the Washington Post, not to mention in many other online sites to the point of ‘notoriety’.

    A growing negative perception seems to be taking shape, albeit, more from a single sector, call it, the Filipino youth from all over the globe. But that more likely indicates how, as a fad or a game, planking is revered by a whole universe of youngsters, plankers and all.

    Understandably, when a youngster hears that, however he may have missed first reading the bill, its explanatory note, and the press statement of the author, the immediate reaction translates into a resistance game.

    But perhaps, if that youngster, planker or not, only gets to hear the news from the horse’s mouth, in a manner of speaking, this negative mindset might be quickly obliterated. Besides, Twitter is about twitting which is not necessarily synonymous with ‘thinking first before clicking’ (the keyboard).

    Be that as it may, it will be instructive to go over the materials made available. The bill’s main text, the bill’s explanatory note (an abstract), and the press statement that was rolled out are but the three items that one disinterested reader should have at hand to arrive at a more enlightened understanding.

    From the outline, the negative global response to Castelo’s ‘Anti-Planking Act’ is a social epidemic of sorts, viral if you may, that does not have to have a cure any more than efforts by those in support of the legislative measure should also find space in the reading chart to say their piece.

    Let this piece be one.

    Something happened in the streets of Espana in Sampaloc, Manila that saw some twenty human planks rolled out to block, presumably, the otherwise normal traffic at that road turnabout. Planking in this particular case digressed from the common reason why its enthusiasts do planking in the first place. This self-satisfying art where practitioners find personal fulfillment is reinvented to be the message itself in radical or militant social upheavals.

    And it was as if these student protesters who did the planking perform the photo-requiring act as a sign that they sympathize with PISTON, the organization that launched the mass transport strike which in turn caused humungous but undue traffic inimical to public order and safety.

    With this in mind, perhaps, Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo thought of drafting a measure lest this scene might repeat itself in the future to the point that unforeseen and fatal consequences might arise from it – especially so if soon adopted as an acceptable form of free speech or expression.

    Except that the author thinks otherwise and some, though quite a few for now, have ‘blogged’ their views on the bill appreciative of the salient points raised therein by the author.

    So who should really cry wolf?

    What really caused the phenomenal viral epidemic as though one tiny idea invaded the inner recesses of the “Big Brain”?

    At bottom, the bill is to my mind, about a societal concern which could be expressed by anyone, a parent at best, who gets to see in the newspapers pictures of people serving as living planks in national highways in order to prevent, purposively, all sorts of vehicles from crossing a turnabout road.

    Is it unfair to be concerned enough?

    Let us proceed. In the main text of the bill, a Code of Student Conduct shall be prescribed for use in all schools, colleges, and universities. And Dep Ed takes care of this job in the case of elementary and high school students while CHED in the case of college or university students. Is there anything wrong with that so far?

    A code of conduct of whatsoever form is of course always in service of a desired brand of discipline and propriety that any bonafide student should give heed to or violations thereof shall be a valid basis for suspension to dismissal depending on the gravity of offense. Thus if a student violates what the school or agency of government prohibits, he may have to be slapped with administrative sanctions. Is this wrong?

    Planking, just planking, is purposively covered in the bill if it is occasioned by a street rally or similar protest action as a form of redress of grievance. This seems to be the single and only conditionality that the bill proposes to take into account. This is one important point that vibrant detractors should not miss.

    It is clear that the bill’s author does not intend to push planking as an art to the archives. Nor does he intend to inject poison into that constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression. This anti-planking bill is not intended to shelve this highest fundamental freedom in a democracy.

    Planking as art, fad, trend or craze remains. It was never under siege.

    In the name of safety to life and limb, the bill throws its moorings. And whatever punishment or penalty implied in violation of the bill vis a vis appropriate sanctions is something for either Dep Ed or CHED to prescribe when it issues the pertinent rules and regulations to carry out the provision of the Act.

    From where I stand, it seems difficult to see what awesome germ or virus must have carried with it the contagious illusion that HB 5316 is a fascist move, its release as it were, occasioned by the anniversary of martial law.

    In that universe called Twitter, most anyone seems to have really thrown their weight – and even curse or swear words – were thrown in the path possibly degrading of Congress if not to the author of the proposed measure.

    Truth belabored, bills are mere proposals from anyone of Congress (either House of Representatives or Senate) that go through a long if stringent process of First Reading, Second Reading and Third and Final Reading. Further legislative rituals follow at that point until the time it goes to the President for signature if likely approved and so on.

    In short, any bill at all, to include HB 5316, is part of the territory.

    It bears watching where the public debate leads lead to and how it turns out to be. But quite frankly, another congressman’s argument opposed to this bill is yet to hold water based on that phone interview between him and Arnold Clavio of Channel 7 in Unang Hirit (21 September).

    Well, for all the fun and excitement that the bill generated, how we can wish all bills that come out of the legislative mill receive the same vibrant responses, good or bad, of that universe that millions of people fondly inhabit called Twitter. But maybe, let us try to think before we twit.

    The children and youngsters have spoken. Maybe it is the turn of the parents and school administrators next.

    Legislators or policy makers – let them be the judges to calibrate where safety ends and danger begins.

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  • http://karlomongaya.wordpress.com Karlo Mikhail Mongaya

    In short, negative reactions to the proposed legislation are misdirected because the bill only targets planking as a form of protest and not planking in-itself. But who is really missing the point? What detractors of the bill condemn is precisely the absurd aim of prohibiting planking as a form of protest. Let students plank for legitimate causes! Instead of instituting more unjust school administration or government prohibitions, similar anti-student and anti-people policies should be opposed and scrapped. For all the lengthy discourse, nielsky_2003′s ultimate point is that the youth should leave lawmaking and politics to the elders and the experts. How pathetic.

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  • nielsky_2003

    Pathetic?

    When we start debate by namecalling, ad hominem and the like, we end up as we started.

    There is a light of reason out there, just care to see and we will be happy to discuss it with you – in toto.

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