AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL MEMBERS OF THE BACOLOD BARTER COMMUNITY

FROM ATTY. JOCELLE BATAPA – SIGUE

I have been silent for three days since the major technical glitch of the Bacolod Barter Community (BBC) happened this week because as founder, together with all the moderators – we are deeply affected by this development. But despite our sadness, we know that we need to be transparent and explain the situation.  

On Tuesday this week, September 15, at around 9 o’clock in the morning, the Bacolod Barter Community was disabled by Facebook due to a number of breaches or posts that went against Facebook community standards, which accumulated since May 2020. Out of nearly 250,000 posts, BBC has incurred more than 80 breaches or posts of items, which under FB rules are not allowed “for selling”. Since Facebook has currently no rules for bartering. We have immediately blocked, removed or muted all the members whose posts were taken down by Facebook as a breach. The breaches include mostly surgical disposable masks (which is regulated by Facebook because of pandemic), and live animals, airsoft and vape.  This situation also happened to other online barter communities.

We have constantly ensured not to behave as buy and sell or a commercial trading group page such that the strict FB regulations applying to commercial transactions can be reconsidered. Notwithstanding, everything that Facebook prohibited to be sold online, BBC also disallowed to be bartered online.

We have tried every day to advice our members against Facebook breaches and our moderators have constantly tried to avoid errors of approving them. The cumulative number of posts DECLINED by all volunteer moderators have reached more than 20,000 in a span of four months. This only means that we have exerted so much effort in making sure that everyone gets to barter and posts that are violating mechanics are prohibited.    

Also on September 15 the same day BBC went offline, the BBC team has begun the process of appeal which is on-going up to this day. We have appealed to Facebook to consider online barter communities as public good, just like we look at Facebook as a public good – for us who have made it a platform to pursue our advocacies.

The Bacolod Barter Community has benefitted thousands of families in Bacolod and in Negros Occidental in finding ways and means to survive the serious economic impacts of the quarantine restrictions due to the pandemic. Thousands have lost their jobs and opportunities to earn on a daily basis. Many small and medium business owners and entrepreneurs have folded up or have temporarily closed their businesses. More than half of the city have started to re-connect, while others have built new connections or stronger connections because of daily online bartering activities. Online barter has spontaneously spread across the country in May, sending message of hope and spreading kindness to all communities. Online barter has become a social technology to uplift the otherwise desolate and dampened spirits that prevailed in our physical communities after several months of lockdown restrictions. In sum, we have shown the world what kindness is all about in the midst of fear and uncertainties.

It is on these important points that we appealed to Facebook, and that therefore, up to now, we are praying that our page shall be restored.  As BBC Founder and Administrator, I take full responsibility for this technical situation and sincerely apologize to all members for all the inconvenience this development has caused everyone. I am immensely grateful to all moderators who spend so much time and resources to help me in this endeavor even without any remuneration. I am extremely thankful to our benefactors and members who shared prizes and items to bring cheers to our inspiring barter stories and challenges.  Most of all, I thank the more than 235,000 members who have become part of the vision of BBC for several months.

While awaiting the decision, also on the same day, September 15, we have started a new group page with the same name – BACOLOD BARTER COMMUNITY – and the same logo, the same mechanics and user-experience  – with this URL – https://www.facebook.com/groups/newbacolodbartercommunity

We invite everyone to this new home with renewed optimism and hopeful spirits. I also encouraged everyone to be more responsible in all our bartering activities – from posting, to bartering in the threads, up to exchanging.

Whether our original BBC group is restored or that we continue on with this new group – the Bacolod Barter Community commits, with the help of the Almighty God, and the cooperation of all members – to be STRONGER, WISER, AND KINDER!

Let us not give up and continue to help one another. Let us put our trust in the Lord and rely on His Wisdom and Goodness to decide what is best for us.

Tomorrow is a new day! Padayon kita! Madamo nga salamat!

Published by Jocelle Batapa Sigue

ATTY. JOCELLE BATAPA-SIGUE • Named as one of The Outstanding Women in Nation’s Service of the Philippines or TOWNS for 2016 in the field of Information and Communications Technology or ICT • Positions: Past Vice President (2018) and Past President (2010-2012) and Past Trustee (2013-2017) of the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines or NICP • Founder, Former President and Current Executive Director of the Bacolod-Negros Occidental Federation for ICT or BNEFIT • Served for 3 terms as councilor of Bacolod City • Chosen as one of Asia Society Top Ten Philippines 21 Young Leaders in 2009 • Chosen as the Eisenhower Fellow of the Philippines in 2012 • Awarded as Philippine Individual Contributor of the Year during the International ICT Awards given by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines

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