Beyond Occupation: A Critical Discourse Analysis on the Online Mainstream Media Coverage of KADAMAY’s Occupy Bulacan Movement

The following is the abstract to my undergraduate thesis “Beyond Occupation”, submitted to the UP CMC Journalism Department last May 2018.

This study examined how the country’s top online mainstream news media outlets Inquirer.net, Philstar, Rappler and GMA News Online portrayed and discussed the urban poor group KADAMAY when it led 20,000 informal settlers in taking over idle government homes in Pandi, Bulacan beginning March 8, 2017. The protest was meant to shed light on the housing crisis the urban poor had been facing for a long time, but the media seemed more intent to highlight the radical nature of the demonstration and the conflict it spurred more than anything. The mainstream media initially seemed to follow what scholars call the protest paradigm, which is the tendency of media to cover protests unfavorably due to the prioritization of spectacle and elite interests, among other reasons.

This study incorporated the media hegemony theory with critical discourse analysis in examining the discourses that have emerged and the power relations at play in this coverage. It also sought to confirm the presence of the protest paradigm in this case by studying the specifications and content of each article through coding.

This study points out that a) the portrayal of the homeless urban poor was uneven among the media outlets, with Philstar and GMA News Online representing KADAMAY with the least sympathy and context, Rappler with the most sympathy and context and Inquirer.net remaining neutral at the middle; b) though uneven, overall, the protest paradigm could still be detected in the coverage as some articles either upheld judgements or themselves delegitimized the

KADAMAY protests; and c) the four emergent discourses — namely, the illegality of occupation, the urban poor situation in the Philippines, the anarchy and lack of order, and the effects of awarding KADAMAY homes — were discourses dominated by Government and Police forces. The mainstream media, which also doubles as business entity, seemed to play its role as elite ally in sustaining the hegemonic and delegitimizing views of those in power.

Being aware of the power relations existing in this coverage is vital in understanding why it is these elite discourses that prevail and ultimately in attempting to hone more sensitive and critical media consumers who are conscious of the issues that affect and surround them.