So, if someone were to ask me how I’d wage the Great Book Siege of 2009, this is how I’d do it:
- War is about numbers. Keep forming the Facebook protest group. This will provide a public opinion base. Note: not everyone who signs up will be active. But what’s important is to build a network to help spread the word faster. Use email and text message signatures to direct people to the Facebook page. Use Chikka.com to text as many people as you want for free.
- Form a core organization. Right now, the protest is more of a movement. But a core organization is needed to keep things in focus, consistent and organized. The idea is to maintain momentum. It’s also important for people to actually meet to give causes human faces. Maybe an occasional rallying speech on YouTube might do the trick.
- Draft a plan of action to maintain focus and momentum. Winning a war is also about effective management. There must be clear objectives and steps detailing how these are to be achieved. Objectives keep all efforts consistent, thereby maximizing their intended effect while minimizing wasted time and effort.
- Get bigger guns. Seek support from NGOs, schools, foundations that are into education. Enlist the backing of National Bookstore, Fully Booked and other bookstores. Ask them to provide assistance, logistical, financial, whatever that helps.
- Keep up the barrage. Keeping sending messages of concern by email, mail, fax, phone, petition, homing pigeons and whatever else you can lay your hands on to government officials and agencies, lawmakers, lawyers’ groups and other people who can make things move. Ask supporters to send email and text messages to 10 people they know. Just imagine the multiplier effect that would do. And, most importantly, don’t let up until it’s over. Don’t think that delivering your message to 10 people just once is enough. Remember, the idea here is to achieve fire superiority and not give the opposition any breathing space.
- Keep blogging, emailing and texting. The government is underestimating the power of social technologies, thinking that this issue will die down. They’re making a mistake. Let’s not interrupt them. Don’t forget: all this started thanks to one online musing from Robin Hemley.
- Open a new front. Take the battle outside of cyberspace. Use shirts, buttons, home-made stickers, posters, text messages, email protest ads, flyers, small flags to broadcast our message. The idea is to create the image of mass outrage. One particular idea that I have is to mail, fax or email custom-made “No to taxes on books!” postcards to the DOF. Why stage a rally and brandish placards outside when you can fire “mini placards” right straight into the office by fax and snail mail?
- Create critical mass. Go to the extreme and ask the bookstores to stop importing books. Period. They should put up signs saying that “We have stopped importing books in protest of the new taxes being imposed by the government, which is in violation of the Florence Agreement. We apologize for the inconvenience and appeal for your understanding.” Then let’s see what happens when the books start disappearing.
- Get the media behind us to cultivate critical mass opinion. Send press and photo releases to editors. Ask to be interviewed. Hold a publicity stunt, such as a motorcade or fundraisers or book drives. The idea is to get on the news as often as possible. Get this issue to CNN, BBC and other international media organizations.
- Divide and conquer. The Finance Department has usurped the jobs of the Education and Foreign Affairs Departments. Petition the DepEd and the DFA to put the DOF in its place. Don’t forget the National Book Development Board.
- Take the direct approach. Contact UNESCO, the World Trade Organization and embassies of Florence Agreement signatory countries. The book taxes are treaty and free trade violations.
- Go to court. Question the DOF order that imposed the taxes. Get lawyers for this. The Alternative Law Group or Free Legal Assistance Group perhaps. The bookstores could pool their resources and file a lawsuit. Or we file a taxpayers lawsuit.
- Submit a citizens’ bill amending the tax code. The DOF claims it’s in the law, then we change the law. Get congressmen up for reelection in 2010 and those who love to grandstand as backers. This is using the political system and human psychology for you.
- Threaten election reprisal. We directly campaign against the administration party and their allies in the 2010 elections if they refuse to heed our demand. As in we form a blacklist of candidates for targeting.
- Think like the enemy to anticipate their moves. Remember, we are living in the land of political killings and desaparecidos. We don’t know if they’ll resort to harassment, intimidation and outright threats. We’ll probably need to take security measures. Good if I’m wrong and I’m being too paranoid. But if I’m right, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Believe that we can make it. An army’s worst enemy is defeatism. Remember this quote from Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think that you can’t, either way you are right.”