The impeachment vote in tweets

By Russell Shepherd and Maria A. Ressa

MANILA, Philippines — 2012 began with a bang: an all-or-nothing gambit by a popular president and his allies that pit branches of government against each other – the Executive against the Judiciary.  Winner takes all.

On December 12, 2011, 188 lawmakers from the House of Representatives impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.  It was later dubbed “the overnight impeachment.”  His impeachment trial at the Senate, acting as an impeachment court, began on January 16, 2012.

May 29, 2012 was D-Day – the 44th and final day of the trial. 23 senator-judges announced their verdicts one by one in an open session broadcast live on national television, radio and internet. Filipinos watched with bated breath and held intense conversations with each other on social media.  This is a significant new platform for democracy and institution-building.

In 2010, ComScore dubbed the Philippines the social media capital of the world after years as “the texting capital of the world.”  We at Rappler believe this is true people power at work: no discrimination for age or economic class.  It is largely one person, one voice.

The 44th and final session lasted from 2:00 pm until 6:00 pm. Punctuated by dramatic moments and politically charged speeches, it was a day of reckoning – not only for Corona himself but for our country’s system of governance.  The last time the Philippines had an impeachment trial for former President Joseph Estrada, it ended in mob rule – with senators walking out, an unopened envelope  and what later became known as People Power 2, a bastardization of 1986 because it unseated a duly-elected president.

2012 was different: this is the first trial of its kind to be concluded in Philippine history. The successful process showed a level of maturity our institutions failed to exhibit earlier and set a standard of accountability for public officials.

Rappler collected and analyzed about 143,000 tweets during the course of the last day of the trial, about 14% of which were tagged #Convict and 10% tagged #Acquit.

  Here is a timeline of the number of tweets per minute during voting. Click on the red areas to see what caused the spikes in Twitter activity.


See a complete list of the senator-judge’s votes here.

The number of tweets increased when Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile opened the session at 2:00 pm.


The first distinguishable reaction came just after 2:30 pm when Senator Edgardo Angara cast the first vote, guilty.

There is a brief v-shapped lull in the tweet-rate before climbing again after Senator Joker Arroyo cast the first of only 3 acquit votes at 2:40 pm.

The next major reaction came when Senator Miriam Santiago delivered a passionate speech and her verdict.  Twitter activity spikes to 1,400 tweets per minute when she took the microphone at 3:03 pm, and continued to react strongly throughout her 20 minute speech – reaching more than 1,600 after she entered her vote to acquit.

The third acquit vote came from Senator Bong-Bong Marcos.

Just before 5:00 pm, Twitter hit its largest peak at 1,800 tweets per minute when Senator Bong Revilla delivered the 16th and final guilty vote needed for a conviction.

Finally, at 5:58 pm, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile tallied the votes and announced the verdict – with 20 senators voting to convict.  The verdict is immediately executory. The decision removed Corona from his post, disqualifies him from holding public office and opens him to possible criminal cases.

Mapping the conversation

Our activity on Twitter allows us to see the human superorganism.  It is our collective human behavior and the communities we create at specific moments in time.

Here we can see the network by drawing connections between Twitter users each time one user re-tweets or tweets-at another.

Rappler monitored two hashtags – our own #CoronaTrial, which Rappler shared with the Philippine Daily Inquirer and TV5’s News5Aksyon & Interaksyon, and #CJonTrial, used by ABS-CBN and its affiliates.

  Click here to see the entire #CoronaTrial community.

This includes more than 5,000 nodes or hubs.  It will open on a separate page because of the large amount of data.  You can look for your own account and your community by typing your name in the search box.

The graph below, which includes 552 nodes or hubs, shows the connections between the Twitter accounts which created the strongest communities. This is ground zero. These are the most influential accounts in the #CoronaTrial conversation.

The size of each account roughly correlates to its influence. Senator Miriam Santiago’s account stands out for us. It’s important not because she was tweeting and joining the conversation. In fact, she didn’t tweet during the day’s proceedings. Instead, her account is large because of the number of tweets directed AT her, responding – mostly negatively – to her decision.

  A map of the most influential Twitter accounts using #CoronaTrial


Among the most influential accounts are @ayeemacaraig, Rappler reporter who live-tweeted the trial (Klout score 69); @georgnava, National Youth Commissioner (Klout score 45), who says she hopes “to make a difference – one life, one community at a time;” @inquirerdotnet, the official account of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Klout score 66), managed by JV Rufino; @rapplerdotcom, the official account of Rappler (Klout score 81), and my own @maria_ressa (Klout score 81).  At the beginning of 2012, the Klout score of an average user is about 25.

To understand reach, you can look more closely at the communities around each influencer. Klout scores are one form of measurement but isn’t definitive for every situation – for example, Sen. Miriam Santiago’s Klout score is 79, but she was tweeted-at by numerous accounts after her vote, making her the largest circle in this network.

TV5’s News5Aksyon (Klout score 67) and Interaksyon (Klout score 58) are near the center in an olive-green network and directly connected to TV5 correspondent @abikwok (Klout score 56).

Take a look at #CJonTrial and the communities that formed around each account.

Click on the image to load the full #CJonTrial map. 



If you live on Twitter as we do, we’re certain many of these accounts are familiar names for you.  Now you can see how we are connected to each other.  Technology allows us to map our online communities which means we can better harness them to solve some of our world’s stickiest problems.


This is the foundation of Rappler’s ongoing campaign: Social Media for Social Change.


See you online in 2013!


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