Friday, February 29, 2008

ICT and the new Home Partner segment in TV Game shows

It has probably been a decade when I last heard the term Home Partner in a TV game show. Do we still remember how it worked? Basically, home viewers got the chance to participate in game shows and partake of game prizes without being a TV contestant but by being a home partner of the studio winner. Being home partner meant winning exactly or a determined percentage of what the studio winner earned. Aspiring home partners join by sending in their contact details (names, addresses, telephone number), proof of purchase of a featured product (bottle caps, empty sachets or foil wrappers, boxes, etc.) sometimes with the name of one's "suking tindahan". Entries were sent via regular mail or dropped in boxes at designated stores and were drawn from a raffle "tambiolo" in the presence of a DTI representative.

These days I see that game shows have employed the use of mobile phone text messaging and somehow modified the mechanics of the Home Partner segment of the show. Home viewers text in their contact details to a Message Center and winners get drawn electronically. In some shows, it has become an independent segment all its own; its winners picked and prizes given independently of the main game segment. There could be a word to be solved or a trivia question to be answered. Whatever this new version entailed, the line,"The more entries you send, the more chances of winning!" still applied. The difference, however is that when before the cost to a contestant could be the actual cost of envelope, writing materials, and mailing cost in some instances, none of which benefits the prize giver in some direct way, this time the cost to the participants is the cost of a text message from which TV shows derive a sizeable amount of share from the text messaging company. From the point of view of Caltex vs Palomar, this practice can be considered as a form of lottery which fuels the gambling spirit among the audience. With the unbelievable ease of solving the word puzzle or trivia, the elements of chance, prize, and consideration should be deemed all present. In fact, there is reason to suspect game shows make money in this scheme by giving a prize taken from a mere portion of the cut they get from the text message entries. I even notice some shows announce increases in the "pot" prize during the show. This obviously means they could monitor in real time the amount of entries coming in which translate to a bigger income hence an increased "generosity" on the part of the show.

If the game shows are doing some form of lottery on TV, shouldn't they be monitored even more closely than online lottery given the wider and easier accessibility of these games to the public?


- Marichelle B. Recio

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Modern Art

I still remember a period in time when parents pray that their child would not aspire to be an artist, for he would surely starve. The imaginative parents would envision their child on the streets, painting the scenery or sketching random people, selling his masterpiece, only to earn just about enough to buy food for the day. Those days, when a child chooses fine arts over medicine or economics, his parents would likely have a heart attack.

Those days are long gone, because now, technology has reshaped visual arts. Now career opportunities for artists abound. At present, many cartoonists do not have to beg newspapers to print their comics—computer animation has invaded films, television, cartoons, comics, anime, and manga. Artists are in demand even in developing computer games. They now have careers as creative directors in advertising firms. Interior design is now performed through computers. Digital photography is the current trend. Photo and painting exhibits and sale are now conducted online. E-books present vast opportunities and exposure for illustrators. Website design firms abound in the market. At this day and age, technology has opened a whole new world to the scruffy artists of yesterday. Now, the artists starve no more.

However, with this new market comes a new competitive factor—education and training in both art and tech. To be the least bit competitive in this new multimedia rat race, the artist must not only have mad design skills, but also mad computer skills. This is where a reformation in academic curriculum comes in. Although the computer as an artist’s tool has already been recognized in most Philippine schools, it has to be taken a step further. Critical training in computer animation, imaging and programming may just be the edge that our young artists needs to be competitive in this age of modern art.

Technology's Hidden Costs: The Story of Digital Evidence

My mailbox is not exempt from unsolicited messages (often prefaced by 300 signatures from people all over the world) with an attached picture of a hideously deformed/starved/beaten child. While the images never fail to get a reaction, after some time I've learned to take the most outrageous pictures with the proverbial grain of salt. Whether it's with reference to Victoria Beckham's scandalously skinny calves, or Oscar dela Hoya's infamous fetish for cross dressing, the average Internet user learned to leave room for doubt as to the authenticity of such images. I'm guilty of looking at some of these notorious pictures in an attempt to decide whether they're real or not. I've always thought these images were meant to entertain, shock, or (possibly) ruin a celebrity's career, but I was unpleasantly surprised at the legal consequences the advent of digital photography has caused in some parts of the world.

Apparently, prosecutors in the United States are tasked to determine the authenticity of any pornographic image depicting a child--that is, whether the image corresponds to a real child or is merely computer generated. The U.S. does not consider purely computer-generated images pornographic (no small victory for intellectual property rights)--which is a considerable defense in favor of those accused of peddling child pornography. Others may argue that, in this day and age, it is only appropriate for the State's burden of proof to approximate the current technological advances, but the truth is that prosecutors no longer enjoy the presumption of authenticity photographic evidence used to enjoy. Indeed, this development not only effectively fails to shift the burden of evidence from the prosecution to the defense, but also raises serious doubt as to whether pornographic images--normally largely constitutive of the crime--may even be considered, by themselves, sufficient evidence to move for a search warrant.

If anything, the developments in the US seem to indicate a need for prior certification from experts as to the authenticity of the images before any case may be filed--a preliminary hurdle akin to probable cause, if you will, except that a contrary finding will effectively bar the institution of a criminal action against the respondent. Even on the assumption that the images have been certified to be authentic, however, prosecutors still have to convince the jurors of the expertise of the certifying authority. In any case, it is a messy, complicated issue of appreciating digital evidence--and a wistful reminder of how, in some cases, it used to be easier to catch a crook.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080225/ap_on_hi_te/digital_evidence;_ylt=AmVFZqi72ebhhrP3.77InLpj24cA

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Commemorating the Original EDSA Revolution

Happy EDSA day, friends!

Earlier today, my family and I were inside the car, listening to the news regarding the many rallies and protests, and cursing the PNP and the MMDA for closing parts of EDSA resulting to very heavy traffic. We were so engrossed with what is happening today when suddenly I said, “What were WE doing this day in 1986, on the (last) day of the original EDSA revolution?”

My dad was in Bangkok for an international airline conference which supposedly was to be held in Manila but has to change venues at the last minute because of the political turmoil in the country. My mom, who just gave birth to my brother (born the day before the snap elections), was busy taking care of my brother, while I, who was not even going to school yet, was busy eating and playing. We seem to be unlikely candidates to have joined the revolution then, but had we been then who we are now, could we have joined? My parents: still unlikely. Bro and I: maybe. But the question is, how?

Unless we were staying with schoolmates or co-members of organizations, at that time, I could not have imagined how we would be encouraged to come if without the communication facilities we have now. No cell phones, no internet – how will my brother and I know where to go or how to find our peers? Sure, they may call us at our landline – “Let's meet up in front of LSGH in an hour, ok?” – but how are we going to find one another in that sea of people? At that time, there were no “text brigs” yet, which is so common now, so I presume the people who participated had planned their move and their particular participants, even days before. Encouraging people to go were done in a more personal way: hearing one's voice live (or maybe on the phone), feeling the leaders' anger and desire through their facial expressions and body language, and not just words.

This year, it seems that the loud minority wanted to repeat the magnitude and success of the original ESDA revolution, but to no avail. This, amidst the advances in communications technology! Oh well, maybe it's just because, as the saying goes, nothing beats the original.

(How about you? Where were you on February 25, 1986?)

Retrieval of Text Messages - Possible or Not?

The Senate inquiry on the NBN-ZTE deal focused on the money allegedly given by Manny Gaite to Jun Lozada. Senator Enrile wanted to see the text message sent by Lozada to Gaite when the former was in Hong Kong. The message on Lozada's phone was deleted. Gaite deleted the message too but he sent it to his wife before deleting it hence, he was able to ask his wife to resend it to his phone. Lozada refused to attest to the veracity of the message, arguing that the message might have been edited since it was no longer the message from his cellphone. Senator Enrile suggested that perhaps Smart and Globe (Lozada's service providers) may be summoned to present the actual message sent by Lozada to Gaite. Enrile also mentioned that these service providers must be asked to authenticate the veracity of these messages. Both Lozada and Gaite agreed to draft a letter to Smart and Globe authorizing these companies to present the text messages before the Senate.

I don't know how this thing will work out. But I have some concerns regarding this matter.

As articulated by Senator Lacson, do these service providers really store the text messages that come from our cellphones? In this case, there is no privacy issue involved since the account holders gave their consent to the presentation of the messages. But if these providers do store these messages, then I am quite alarmed that without my consent, people other than the intended recipients can read the messages I send and receive.

Granting that the providers store the messages and that they can present it before the Senate, do we have any assurance that these messages were not tampered with? Remember that the phones of Lozada and his family were hacked with some messages deleted while the dates of the retained messages were changed. Lozada, who considers himself an expert in the telecommunication industry, also said that messages may be edited or even hacked and that anything which is stored in electronic form can't be 100% secure. So how sure are we that the messages to be presented by these providers are accurate?

As a friend puts it, and I hope he's wrong, we might be setting a dangerous precedent here. I guess we'll never know until the service providers issue their statements. In the meantime, I can only hope that the senators know what they're doing.

Snooping not Necessarily a Crime, but not in the Philippines

The Associated Press reported of employment cases involving Milwaukee-based WE Energies on company databases snooping by employees. It is now common in the US’s utilities, telecommunications, and accounting industries to have employees snoop on the companies’ databases.

This is because access to the huge databases of credit and banking information, payment histories, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers and energy usage or consumption information tempts employees to use it. They can either use it for their own or sell it. It leads to numerous crimes like libel, identity theft, stalking, and other privacy invasions. And yet, the US find it hard to prosecute these employees because in many cases snooping is not punishable unless it is used to commit a punishable crime.

Jay Foley, executive director of the Identity Theft Resources Center said that, “something must be done in the state level to make this illegal”. State regulators and law makers must realize that mere snooping even if the information in not confidential is a crime. Companies should also put up software to track the access of the employees to the databases.

And here I thought that the United States had better data protection laws just because they have more laws. Our E-commerce Act can certainly prosecute these employees if this happened in the Philippines. The mere act of unauthorized access is already a punishable crime. It is hacking as long as the person or employee in this case snoops through the databases of the computers without authority.

SOURCE: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5ghPenZUJTE7BfSfgQbj6RX597DEAD8V019TG0

Variable Uses of National Technology, Government excUSES

There are fears that USA’s shootdown of an ailing satellite hovering on the Pacific Ocean last week is a test for a shadow anti-satellite program. A missile which was supposedly developed for the anti-missile defence program, was used to hit the orbiting satellite’s fuel tank. The satellite had a risk of falling, carrying with it half a ton of frozen rocket fuel. The mission was conducted and launched from NAVY warships already deployed which accounts for the mobility.

Actually the fears are not unfounded considering ignitable wars against North Korea or China because of the heavy intrusion of the US against their defense programs. The missile-defense interceptor was converted to an anti-satellite capability in just a little over a month. There was no expensive research and development program. There were no legislative approvals, legislative inquiries nor budget hearings. It was one thing that led to another thing which skipped standard protocols.

All governments actions and programs have hidden agendas. It may be stakeholders pressuring legislators, bribes obtained on a project or aims to rule the world. We just hope we at least get some benefit out of it. Technology is now a tool for the government to delude the citizens into thinking that a program is meant for one thing when it is actually for another thing. Technology by nature has many different uses now and can evolve later on. Even extra vigilance against unlawful uses is not enough to stop misuses by the government. The ZTE broadband case here in the Philippines is a prime example of a “misuses” of technology.

SOURCE: http://www.news.com/Errant-satellite-is-gone%2C-but-questions-linger/2100-11397_3-6231676.html?tag=cd.lede

Client’s Personal Data, Privileged Communication?

Two London Law Firms are being fined £815 each by the Information Commissioner because they failed to register with the Information Commissioner Office and pay the yearly fees despite repeated reminders. All organizations that process or merely deal with personal data must notify the Information Commissioner under the Data Protection Act.

Actually, it is easy to register and it only costs an annual £35 for the whole firm. But I understand why some professions would rather not register and risk disclosing information and links. This is mainly done as a protection of the client’s interest especially under the lawyer-client communication. And I speculate that later on it will serve as safeguard against a person or lawyer’s right against self-incrimination.

Even if I assume the most positive, that the law only demands registration of the user’s own personal data without any submission of the protected data handled, it still puts people at risk. By registering, the government is granted access and entry for investigations in the guise of regulatory powers. True, at the outset it looks harmless enough as a protection of privacy of any individual against abuses of the users of his data. But who protects the individual from the government?

It is like in tax evasion investigations here wherein the government can lawfully audit a company not only through its own books or accounts, but it can also trace and audit through the suppliers, buyers and other people they deal with, such as lawyers. The links that are declared could very well give prosecutors the vital information as evidence to prosecute either the clients or those people or companies who and which are traceable to the client. It would be in violation of privacy and law.

SOURCE: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/22/lawyers_fined_4_data_breach/

Comments to Lozadas Testimony

Lozada’s expose on the interception of his texts and triangulating his whereabouts via cellular signals didn’t shock me as it should have. Although the interception of texts only worried me on one aspect, that it did not get to the addressee as if snatched or stolen by the interceptors. It turns out that these messages did get to Lozada’s wife and brother. Privacy and security is really defeatable using technology available out there. So it should not come as a surprise that it is being used now.

The only issue we should discuss is how to punish this violations. We really cannot stop technology’s advancement even if it is used in violation of one’s rights. But we should allow technologies such as these because it can also be used in many other good things. Legislators should then just focus on punishing illegal uses of technology but not ban or prohibit the use or development of it.

Smart has a product Smartkids where the Parents can track their kids’ whereabouts using their cellphone signals. This is available even for the private citizens. This technology is not limited to the knowledge of as Lozada said, an engineer like him. Who knows if his cellphone and sim card was a government issued one. In this case, it could have allowed the government for surveillance and regulation.

In Washington DC, a pair of researchers has created a low-cost and simple hack to crack the encryption in GSM mobile phones and intercept voice and SMS text messages within minutes. They claim that they have engineered a low-cost practical attack against GSM’s A5/1 algorithm. They were surprised on how easy it was to hack it. They were shocked to see the GSM specs floating around in the Net. And they used a combination of 2 terabytes worth of hard drives and one field programmable field array (FPGA) worth $1,000 to decode the encryption. They plan to release a commercial grade version of the tool which will crack GSM’s calls and texts in 30 seconds. GSM they said is not secure.

SOURCE: http://www.darkreading.com/document.asp?doc_id=146616

Sunday, February 24, 2008

President flaunts another IT program . . .

At the 8th e-Services Global Sourcing Conference and Exhibition held recently in Pasay City, Pres. Arroyo unveiled a P350-million IT scholarship program designed to train 40,000 to 50,000 Filipinos for employment in the Philippine IT sector. The president also assured that the IT trainees would be easily absorbed by the job market as her administration is in the process of generating 10 million jobs.

It is quite surprising that the president has the audacity to introduce another IT-related project in the face of the ZTE-NBN fiasco considering that both come from the same industry. The president even proclaimed that “we are proud of what we have achieved”, referring to her administration’s “achievements” in developing the IT sector.

But, with the recent controversy rocking the country right now, one cannot help but wonder whether or not this IT training program is another “overpriced” project.

What I am driving at is this: the current administration has lost a lot of its credibility with respect to its business ventures, not just in the IT industry. The abovementioned event is considered as the premier outsourcing conference in Southeast Asia, it draws approximately 150 exhibitors, 500 delegates and some 2,000 exhibition visitors every year. Considering the media attention the Senate hearings on the ZTE deal is attracting, it is not too far-fetched to assume that the controversy has had a negative impact on the impressions or opinions of a majority of potential investors in the Philippine IT industry.

Whether or not those potential investors play “the game” or not, the ZTE-NBN fiasco cannot but discourage them from investing in the country. For those investorsave come to accept that “commissions” to government officials are a fact of life, being identified as such an investor is bad publicity for their business; while those who have yet to experience dealing with the Philippine government might already be disgusted at the magnitude of greed that has been allegedly committed in the ZTE deal.

Perhaps the president is trying to play down the effects of the controversy by acting like it’s business as usual. In any case the government, alongside the creation of other transactions, must restore investor confidence by providing for more transparency in government business ventures, if it hopes to minimize the negative effects that the ZTE controversy has had on the economy.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Filipinos in the Global Media: Technology as an Echo (Part II)

Last week, I began a two-part series discussing how Filipinos are beginning to penetrate the International media. As Filipino exposure is increased through the interconnection between various forms of media, it also receives much help from the participation of the millions of Filipinos as viewers. This proliferation of content in television, movies and the internet through the help of Filipino audiences become most pervasive in cases such as that of interactive media namely text messaging technology and the internet.

I am not sure, but I think Filipinos are very prolific net surfers. Case at point is how many Filipinos I see whenever I enter a MMORPG website or when I get to read messageboards of any sort. Chances are there are Filipinos and surprisingly, they are never alone.

I am also amazed at how many networking sites Filipinos are willing to maintain. It is not unusual for me to find out that a friend of mine has a friendster, multiply and facebook account. This on top of multiple email accounts, a yahoo messenger, chikka account and occasionally a skype account. The really prolific ones even have a meebo, delicious, msn messenger and even more networking sites (ie my space, hi5, live journal etc.), and they are able to keep them active, all of them. I cannot imagine how they are able to do that. My multiply site is practically trash and my facebook account has yet to carry my face. So sad.

As for text messaging, well, Mr. Aritao in his past post, already affirmed that we were able to retain our title as the text messaging capital of the world, so I doubt it if there will be any contention there.

Anyway, I have realized that this particular characteristic of Filipinos as prolific text messaging and Internet users create an echo of the diaspora, because it magnifies the Filipino presence, the Filipino voice. It acts as another channel for Filipino influence everywhere in the world, including Hollywood. It hastens the process of acculturation and provides a platform for the melding of perspectives. After all, media does not only affect life, it also reflects it.

I actually like the idea of a truly world-famous Filipino. I mean don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for Manny Pacquiao and Lea Salonga. It is just that I am thinking of something more. Perhaps the way Jacky Chan represents Hong Kong and China and Gisele Bunchen represents Brazil or something to that effect. Thanks to the Filipino diaspora and the wonders of modern-day technology, I am positive that such an idea may actually come to pass.

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

Bits Per Second Diagnosis

We can do almost anything over the internet, we could practically live our lives infront of our PCs, with occasional trips for hygenic purposes. In the United States, eHealth seems to be getting more popular. YourDiagnosis.com is an example of this particular industry. YourDiagnosis.com "gathers essential information about your symptoms by intelligently adjusting its questions in response to your specific circumstance. It then performs a complex analysis to diagnose every possible condition that matches your symptoms, and calculates the likelihood of each condition or disease"(taken from FAQ section of website). eHealth can't completely take over physically going to your doctor for treatment, but it seems to me that eHealth's appeal is the fact that it can serve as an important diagnostic tool or for simply educating the patient. At the privacy of one's own home, the patient can find out what might be wrong with him/her, and then decide whether or not to go to the doctor's office.

In our country, i don't think we'll be hearing a lot from eHealth anytime soon. Even if we obtain a diagnosis from these websites, we'll still have to go to the doctor to verify it. We Filipinos try to avoid spending money if we could. And besides, we usually only go to the doctor when there is already, or apparently, something wrong with us. Even the doctors themselves would not prescribe treatment solely based on a diagnosis obtained online. You'll be getting your checkup again. If we are to popularize eHealth as a diagnostic tool, i think we should provide 2 things: (1) the option for the patient to be treated solely on an online diagnosis; and, (2)remedies to individuals who are misdiagnosed. I just think, for now, there is still no substitute for a trip to the doctor's office.

privacy in the public eye

Section 1. It shall be unlawful for any person, not being authorized by all the parties to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication or spoken word by using a device commonly known as a dictaphone or dictagraph or detectaphone or walkie-talkie or tape recorder, or however otherwise described xxx (Sec.1, RA 4200)

A few days ago, I saw on the news that there was a message recording of an alleged conversation between Jun Lozada & Joey de Venecia uploaded on the youtube. The video utilized cartoons to act out the conversation between the two regarding the ZTE broadband deal. The voices were identified to be Lozada'z and Joey de Venecia's. It was an alleged wire-tapped conversation between the two. I had a glimpse of the video on tv, but when i tried to search the youtube for it, i only found a 5-second presentation entitled "raw wire-tapped conversation between joey de venecia & jun lozada" that only showed a slide stating "wire-tapped audio of jun lozada and joey de venecia". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kp1tiQMgrMk&feature=related

Aside from the fact that the said video of the alleged conversation has apparently been pulled out and replaced by this misleading video, it kinda bothers how the "wire-tapped video" came into being. RA 4200, the Anti-wiretapping Law, states that it is illegal for any unauthorized person to tap, intercept, secretly overhear, or record any private communication. The only exception to wiretapping according to the law is only upon a written order from the Court in crimes of treason, espionage, provoking war and disloyalty in case of war, piracy, mutiny in the high seas, rebellion, conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion, inciting to rebellion, sedition, conspiracy to commit sedition, inciting to sedition, kidnapping(RPC) and violations of CA 616, punishing espionage and other offenses against national security. ( Sec. 3, RA 4200). The reason for the enactment of the Anti-Wire tapping Law was to protect the right to privacy of the people and the privacy of their communications.

With the emergence of this controversial "wire tapped audio", this only shows that phone conversations are already being recorded without the knowledge of the parties. Couple this up with the texting incident of Lozada, when his escorts informed him that he shouldn't text anymore coz they can intercept (well im not sure if they can see the message or if the message will just end up with them... still, interception & interference with a private communication). The privacy safeguards in Lozada's case are nil. And the invasion of such are not upon any written orders from the court, nor is the interception for the purpose of intervening with any offense against national security. In this case, Lozada is a key witness against several high ranking public officials. So would that warrant the violation of his private communications? I mean, is there already an existing structure that records all our conversations that the government can use and tamper with when they want to?

Friday, February 22, 2008

consumers not producers

With all the local consumption of technology, I wonder why no Philippine company has made a worthy attempt at producing the technology that we have such a monstrous demand for. While i reckon that it's a nice idea, I see it to be one that is far removed from reality.

Tech-savy Filipinos
Filipinos eat up all the newest technology save from those that are prohibitively priced. We are the "text capital of the world". We have 20,000 internet gamers using the popular "GG client" unofficial website for phenomenally successful Dota at any given moment. That statistic is higher than china's, whose population is ten time ours.

Sample Success Story: Samsung
Although, the globally established korean brand, samsung is suffering from some scandals, they are one of Asia's greatest success stories. It is a brand that many koreans are proud of, not only out of a sense of nationality but simply because they products are good.

The ideal situation
From a very idealistic and theoretical point of view, it is but logical for us to produce our own tech gadgets to be able to meet local demand and give the less affluent Filipinos a chance to access the technologies they are suffered to do no more than drool over.

The more pragmatic view
However, from a practical point of view, it just doesn't seem to resemble anything close to reality when we talk of creating our own "samsung". My conclusion is based on the following:

1) Our government couldn't care less.
2) The economies of scale required for this type of business limits possible entrants.
3) Our economy rides on foreign investment that is generally opposed to local tech production. Foreign investors with the competence to produce technology already have vested interests in other countries. i.e. nokia, samsung, sony erricson. They will not bother funding a new competitor.
4) Our domestic perception of tech production is that we are not capable of it. Diligent research will tell us that, on the contrary, we are. Yet, it will be a long drawn battle to convince the domestic buyer.
5) There is a lack of local supporting industries. I liken this issue to why we have no automobile industry of our own. One very basic problem is that we virtually don't have a steel industry, which happens to be a very basic but significant supporting industry to the automotive industry.

Selling more investments with IT

The disappointing returns on traditional banking products that are available today such as Savings-Current accounts and time deposits (0.5% and 2.8% on the average, respectively) can cause many depositors to question the belief that saving money is the best way to achieve financial security. Obviously saving money is better than spending it senselessly, as evidenced by the situation of millions of Filipinos who have become victims of their own financial mismanagement. However, with the dismal rates extended by most financial institutions on traditional banking products, savings seems to only be a marginal improvement over spending.

Many financial institutions such as banks have therefore recognized this as an opportunity to develop more sophisticated products that allow depositors to the most out of their funds. Today, mutual funds, trust funds and other investments are being actively marketed by banks to provide customers with higher yielding financial instruments. Though these products promise higher yields, they are also riskier and uninsured. Due to their volatile nature it was more difficult to explain the mechanics of these products and what the depositors should expect from these products.

A couple of years ago it was rather difficult to market investment products. Most depositors were interested in closely monitoring their investments and this would result in a large volume of client calls to the bank for updates on the performance of their investments.

With the internet, websites and portals have provided the means to more efficiently provide information to depositors. To find out more about how banks update depositors about their investments please visit:

http://info.bpiexpressonline.com/bpiprod/prodserv.nsf/Asset+Management/AMTGMainPage

Since accessing the information on these investments is more convenient with technology, banks are now selling more of these products and providing better customer service to those who have decided to take the next step towards becoming an investor.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

2 RATS

One of the biggest sellers of pirated anime is the store chain 2 Rats for the Brats. Aside from the copyright infringement, the actions of these store owners is reprehensible because they sell copies of anime and movies which are "fan subs" or copies given by the anime and movie makers to loyal fans which are not meant to be copied or resold.

Aside from reselling or "repackaging" fan subs to the gullible public, they are widely suspected of hoarding action figures in order to jack up the price. The word on the street is that they create artificial shortage in order to sell a few copies of the hoarded goods at exorbitant prices; in excess of 300% sometimes. Tsk tsk.

Identity in the net

When one can easily cloak himself and can easily hide his true face, it is inevitable for human nature to commit actions that are contrary to the rules laid down by society.It is the psychology of human action that if one can get away with "it' then doing "it" is just fine... To prove this point, the internet or the world wide web is the very place where ones identity can simply disappear, this seeming anarchy is what i believe fuels this constant fascination wit the the internet. Cybercrimes become easy crimes simply because 12 year old kids can get away with it. In the net, age is never a factor because there is no way to actually verify the users actual identity, everything can be faked, duplicated or simply changed. Until a surefire way is designed to actually recognize a net users identity, laws can not have the teeth to actually enforce its mandate to punish offenders.
pls read the article....
http://www.cli.org/pon.html

Rapidshare Comics File Sharing

Now that Marvel and DC have killed Demonoid and Z cult and torrent makers, parsers and hosters are on the run, comic book file sharing activists have switched to private forums and rapidshare accounts in order to "digitally preserve" comics. The private forums are by invitation only so no outsiders can gain access to the rapidshare codes short of hacking the site. Rapidshare does not seem to be policing the content stored on its site for copyright infringement. All of this might change once Marvel and Dc wise up and sue Rapidshare as a "contributory infringer" but for now, comic book scanners have a new refuge.

Internet Suicide Pacts in Bridgehead, England

17 people, mostly young adults, have taken their lives in Bridgehead , England and some parents are blaming the media, Internet pacts and suicide glorification websites for the deaths. Apparently, some suicide glorification sites were created just minutes after the estimated time of the suicide deaths. Is it a cult? Is this a sign of the end times? Maybe it is a sign that Internet freedom must be regulated in order to curb morally reprehensible influences. Now if only some corrupt government officials could make internet pacts...

LUST CAUTION VIRUS

The February 2008 issue of FHM (the Katrina Halili issue) recommends the uncut version of LUST CAUTION, an Ang Lee spy thriller film, for its "instructive" techniques. Unfortunately, no uncut versions of the DVC can be found in Videocity and Astroplus (formerly Astrovision). Online copies of the uncut version contain a codec which destroys the system registry of those unscrupulous enough to download illegal copies. Heh. Caution should really be undertaken when lust is involved. Thank God for youporn.

freedom of expression and information vs malicious publications over the net

The internet has allowed information to be freely or at least easily accessible to anyone in the world. It has allowed people to share thoughts about so many things which would otherwise have been confined to one's notes or computer.

However, it has also allowed people to "share" untruthful allegations or outright libelous/malicious materials that easily destroy one's reputation through the internet. In this sense, regulation may be desirable if only from the perspective of mitigating such effects.

On the other hand, privacy issues as well as freedom of expression potentially collides with any form of regulation in the internet. This dilemma has yet to be addressed by law makers/policy makers which hopefully can present an acceptable solution.

midis

The internet has allowed information to be freely or at least easily accessible to anyone in the world. It has allowed people to share thoughts about so many things which would otherwise have been confined to one's notes or computer.

However, it has also allowed people to "share" untruthful allegations or outright libelous/malicious materials that easily destroy one's reputation through the internet. In this sense, regulation may be desirable if only from the perspective of mitigating such effects.

On the other hand, privacy issues as well as freedom of expression potentially collides with any form of regulation in the internet. This dilemma has yet to be addressed by law makers/policy makers which hopefully can present an acceptable solution.

Things Will Be Just Fine Even If Chairman Neri Announces His Secret Because..

10. He will be backed by LADLAD.

9. He can still look more handsome than both Piolo and Sam.

8. He can finish things early without feelings of guilt or shame.

7. He won't have to file a libel case against Jamby.

6. With a little coffee and a good night’s sleep, we can all forget about it the next day.

5. He could do more magic than Dumbledore (even after J.K. Rowling's announcement), and we will still respect him.

4. It could possibly stop the Oblation Rally on February 22.

3. More of them could come out on February 25. And 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, etc. The more, the Nerier!!!

2. We can all eat pizza and drink beer as he puts on a show.

1. Most importantly, we will all believe him much more than we believe Jun Lozada.

Technology and a Moral Standard: A Mutually Exclusive Philippine Experience

Early this week, a popular Hong Kong actor exhibited considerable moral fiber by admitting the authenticity of sexually explicit photographs circulating the Internet. Edison Chen not only publicly apologized to the different female celebrities featured in the pictures, but asked forgiveness from the Asian public in general for failing to live up to his moral responsibilities as a role model for the youth. In an attempt, it seems, to forestall any speculations as to the sincerity of his contrition, Chen also announced his intention to retire from Hong Kong show business--if only to have "time to heal himself." Whether he lives up to his promise or not, technology became the catalyst to his moral dilemma by exposing the excesses of his private life.

Chen's attitude is as far removed from the prevailing culture in the Philippines as it is possible to get--even with explicit proof of wrongdoing. Indeed, Chen's forthrightness and immediate attempt to minimize the negative publicity leave me feeling ashamed of how Filipinos typically treat similar scandals. Juxtaposed with a repentant actor, local politicians glimmer all the more feebly--one of whom is a sitting President who has admitted her involvement in the Hello Garci scandal on national TV, and continues to live to tell the shameful tale. Recently, we have government officials readily shelling out half a million pesos "as a loan"--hoping, no doubt, that having a heart of gold is a plausible defense against any conceivable liability. We have a public officer whose moral fears are assuaged by the standard of a "moderated greed," and a livid spouse of a former Speaker delivering a furious diatribe on the "evil" President. In every case, fingers are pointed and blame laid at someone else's door; everyone intent on proving that someone else, after all, has committed a greater crime than he has. Chen, on the other hand, refused to absolve himself, even as he actively assists local police in apprehending the culprit behind the Internet photos.

Edison Chen at least saw the folly of playing the fool, and gave the public its dignity by refusing to insult its intelligence. He would have no doubt behaved differently if the bulk of his fan base were Filipinos and--thanks to our culture of personality-based politics--willing to be robbed blind in exchange for a photo opportunity. After all, politicians are only as evil as the media paints them out to be. Ultimately however, revelations through technology are only scandalous vis-a-vis an existing moral standard. Where one is lacking, or all but forgotten, even the most immoral allegations will fail to rile. Call it what you will, but it seems that in this country at least, any publicity is good publicity.

Please see:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080221/en_afp/entertainmenthongkongcanadacelebrityscandal;_ylt=Aq3Z_WKqTg629xbV5sgQyDr6VbIF

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It is interesting that the president of a big company that provides adult materials online recently expressed their willingness to coordinate and collaborate with Yahoo, Google, and the like for the development of a search engine-based filter system in replacement of the current user filter system, to finally address access of minors to their sites. He said that there are still people in their industry who do care for what the children can find in the internet.

It has been a common occurrence for people who use downloading software, Limewire for instance, that pornographic sites pop up or get included in one's search even when his keyword has nothing to do with pornography. While it is true that we need the minors protected from unwanted or wanted but improper exposure to pornographic sites, allowing the adult sites to go mainstream may not be the easiest and perfect solution. This is because we can almost expect the minors to go around the filter as they do when they try to open a Yahoo account, Friendster, Multiply and others sites for building internet network. In the end, while the adult sites make their money by being able to expand their reach, we may not get the protection that we wish for our minors.

Another foreseeable problem would be the different policies of every jurisdiction. While some jurisdictions may only be concerned with limiting the access by minors, because they find nothing wrong with pornography, other jurisdictions may have policies against the exploitation of minors, women, etc. something not contemplated within the idea of a filter system.

- Marichelle B. Recio

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Filipinos in the Global Media: Promotion thru Parallel Media (Part I)

I just watched an episode of “The Simpsons”. It is the one where Homer learns about the signs of the apocalypse and tries to warn the world of the impending reckoning. In his analysis of when the world will end, Homer takes into consideration several factors including, and I was surprised to hear this, the number of Filipinos in the bible (which obviously is none).

I am not offended by the remark, if that is what you are thinking. I am actually amused to hear that Filipinos are now known well enough for a series such as the Simpsons to actually make a reference to us.

Taken together with the reference made in “The Desperate Housewives” series (this one is definitely derogatory) and “The Jimmy Kimmel show” (this one I’m not too sure), and it makes me think that wow, we are starting to penetrate Hollywood.

Perhaps such is only natural. The Filipino diaspora, the gradual dispersion of the Filipino people to the world, has been hard at work over the last couple of decades. In the United States, Filipinos are now the third largest immigrant-sending country, right after mexico and china. There are now manila towns all over the world and Tagalog is said to be considered as the 14th most populous language in the world. With such claims in mind, it is no wonder that foreign media cannot help but reflect the Filipinos and their influence in modern day culture.

But numbers is not the sole name of the game. Technology plays a huge part as well. Considering how media fuels media, parallel mediums, such as movies and the internet have served as a catalyst of influence. Content in movies and the internet have also began featuring aspects of Filipino life. “The Great Raid” although sorely lacking in marketing prowess and hype, was a Hollywood movie that featured not only a Filipino plot but also a handful of Filipino actors. YouTube has become a global platform for Charisse Pempenco and the dancing inmates of Cebu, one that effectively catapulted both to international fame, as well as an Indeed, as more Filipinos permeate one medium, it becomes easier for them or other Filipinos to penetrate another.

However, to be seen is just half of the equation. In the quest to showcase Filipinos to the world, we are not only getting help from parallel media and the performers, but the audience as well. (to be continued)

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_the_United_States
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filipino_American
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagalog_people

Royalties For My Brother

I love Renaldo Lapuz. He’s this Filipino national who auditioned for American Idol this season and sang the song entitled “We Are All Brothers”, his own composition. I think he’s earnest and sweet and is the epitome of every videoke-loving tagay-tayo-sa-kanto Filipino. And he’s way better than William Hung! He’s much cuter. He’s creative. He didn’t just do a cover, but wrote his own song! His voice sounds much better. But most importantly, he’s Filipino!

I wasn’t able to watch his audition in real time. But I checked out U-tube for a clip of it and got a whole lot of samples. There are also remixed versions of his song. And now, his song can be heard on our local radio stations! (I was on the bus from Los BaƱos going to Quezon City when I heard the remix version playing.)

But I wonder if he’s getting any royalties from this? I understand that if your clip is viewed a whole lot, U-tube has a “revenue-sharing” scheme for the poster. But would Renaldo get anything?

And isn’t his song considered his Intellectual Property? Is he not considered a “performer” under the Intellectual Property Code? Is his song not a “sound recording”? If so, does he not have the exclusive rights to authorize the broadcasting and other communication to the public of his performance & the fixation of his unfixed performance? What about his “compensation” for the subsequent communications or broadcasts of his song on the radio? What are his rights when other people use his composition in their remix?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. At this point, I guess Renaldo doesn’t really care—his pure heart only wishes to be in the same room as his good man, Simon Cowell. And his wish was granted, free of charge.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hack You

First, they were able to receive the text messages sent by Jun Lozada through his cellphone.

Then, they were able to get through the cellphone of Jun Lozada's wife, Violeta Lozada. Some text messages were deleted. Some text messages were retained but the dates were changed. It might also be interesting to note that the deleted messages were dated February 5 and 6, 2008, the dates when Jun Lozada was reported to be missing.

What's next?

And more importantly, who are "they" and how can "they" do these things?

*This is based on a report made by Kara David on GMA 7's 24 Oras but I have yet to find an online report regarding this matter. I'll update this entry as soon as I find one.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hotspot in Davao

Yari!


http://davaotoday.com/2008/02/08/in-tagum-forum-soldiers-surf-internet-porn-as-gonzales-speaks/
HOT SPOT. These soldiers had a grand time browsing pornographic websites during the first day of the Local Peace and Security Assembly (LPSA) in Tagum City's Bulwagan ng Lalawigan on Thursday, while National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales was delivering a speech. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo attended the event the next day. The soldiers managed to go online because the venue had been turned into a wifi hotspot for the event. (davaotoday.com photo)

the stimulator

The Valentines day massacre in Northern Illinois University was executed by a seemingly ordinary person – a former student of the said university, and with no police record. Investigators found no intent by the gunsman to do what he did. Later on, when testimonies by his dormmates reveal that he plays Counter Strike (CS), a first-person shooting game, critics are quick to point to the said computer game, and other shooting games for that matter, as stimulant for murder. Could playing this game really give one the urge to kill or inflict harm, to the extent that they do?

Being the only person in her 20's who have never even tried Counter Strike and other shooting games – fine, that is an exaggeration but my point is, almost person I know who is my age played the game at least one, but I never did – I sought the advice of my brother. My brother seldoms plays CS but he very interested in playing similar games on his X-box, like “Splinter Cell”, “Metal Gear” and “Hitman”. His answer to this question was a yes then a no. “Yes” meaning he does get this natural high in playing the game to the extent that he says to himself, “Hey, choking another person seems feels great! I think I want to try it!” or “Whoa, it was really cool seeing that ugly guy fall off the building and die because I pushed him! Maybe I should try that sometime!” He says that this is the normal reaction to overexposure to games like this.

On the other hand, what does he do about it? NONE. Why? Because he has a choice, and he choose not to. He knows it is wrong, he knows it hurts others, and he is sane enough to know that this is not a game, this is real life, where he, and not some fictional character, lives in.

So is video shooting games a stimulant? Maybe. But for sure, this is not the only reason why Kazmierczak (the NIU killer) and the other on-campus killers did what they did; they are not the only ones playing those games and the rest of those that do choose not do enact the game to real life. There must be other reasons, each one different from the other. Let us not put the blame on only one culprit.

Government projects online

For the past several days, all the local news networks, and perhaps even some of the international networks have been focused on the ongoing Senate hearing on the NBN-ZTE deal featuring Mr. “Jun” Lozada.
A lot of people, including some of my friends, have been quite vocal about who they think is the more believable personality in the ongoing Senate hearings. I too have been guilty of such. But regardless of who is telling the truth in those Senate hearings, what is quite disturbing is the fact that this controversy would not have reached the public consciousness had it not been for Mr. Joey De Venecia’s expose.
Assuming Mr. Lozada’s accusations against Abalos and “FG” are true; we would not have known of such a major government IT infrastructure project had the government personalities involved in the NBN-ZTE deal been able to “moderate their greed”.
The 1987 Constitution states that, subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, full public disclosure of all transactions involving public interest is State policy. In line with the abovementioned Constitutional provision, Congress should consider enacting a law requiring all government projects be made accessible to the public through the Internet.
Its implementation will not require a large chunk of public funds as it merely requires content creation. A lot of government agencies already have their own Internet access and websites, thus the infrastructure is already there. These agencies simply need to be trained on how to create and standardize content. The government need not disclose the entire paper trail of the project, simply the final agreement.
This will help further transparency in government and as such it will build public confidence in the national government. Knowing where their taxes go is a big confidence booster to taxpayers. This may also encourage the “moderation of greed” as totally absurd project costs won’t be easily missed by millions of Filipinos who have Internet access.

B.R.D.: Beyond Reasonable Doubt

I remember reading something from Newsweek (or was it Time?) about how the TV show CSI started to affect the US criminal justice system. As we all know, they use the jury system. The show CSI has contaminated the jury pool to such a degree that district attorneys (equivalent i think to our public prosecutors) are complaining that it's almost impossible to get a conviction. They say that the jury nowadays demand and expect so much from criminal investigation, specifically forensic science, that reasonable doubt has become a dime a dozen.

I was wondering, will the same hold true in Philippine courts? Do judges now demand more? If you think about, the same should be happening here in the Philippines. With the advancement of modern science, so many things can be ascertained now that could not have been a few years back. The Philippines may not have access to all the technology available in the US, but should this not create some kind of doubt in the minds of judges? Can they really convict a person and say he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt knowing that there could be another more accurate, but more expensive, way of finding out the truth?

The correct term that should be used when convicting a person here in the Philippines is 'guilt beyond reasonable and affordable doubt'.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

love & governance in the virtual world

Shava Nerad, a 48 year old from Massachusetts got her dream wedding on the 9th of February this year. She met her husband, Matthew Fishman through Second Life, and bonded over their shared love of the virtual world and even celebrated their love online. She chose Second Life as her backdrop as this was the medium that the two utilized to establish their relationship. Second Life is a 3D virtual world where users can connect, socialize, and start business partnerships and global tie ups online. Developed by the Linden Research Inc, it created a virtual lifestyle and virtual commerce world where you can create an image of yourself through an avatar. It’s like playing SIMS online, where you can actually interact with people through their avatars. There are even virtual real estates, corporations, businesses, parties, taxation and even governance.

Even GMA joined the game. She activated her avatar in Second Life as part of the launch of the Philippine National Innovation Strategy in the National Innovation Summit last November 2007. Aside from GMA, other government officials made their avatars and joined the virtual community, among them is DOST Secretary Estrella Alabastro. They said that the idea behind this was to show that the President was a proponent of change & innovation by employing a virtual world. With the Head of State joining the virtual community, the setting up of a virtual Philippine Embassy is not so far behind. IBM executives are already using the game for its regular meetings using their own avatars. This can be a prototype for our well desired inter-connected government. If the President recognizes change and innovation, she might put those ideas to practice and use the government’s resources in establishing the most needed inter-connectivity between the different government agencies with the private sector. Should she put her mind in setting this up, she would be able to deliver public services to her constituents effectively & efficiently.

On a side note, I wonder what her avatar looks like. Avatars are self projections of the user, a representation of himself or herself in internet forums. Imagine how her governance works in the virtual world. I wonder if Philippine politics and corruption would still come into play or would those enter the scenario in the outside world, a.k.a. the real world.

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/feb2008/tc20080214_131079.htm
http://technology.inquirer.net/infotech/infotech/view_article.php?article_id=103122

Microfiber Fabric = Electricity

There seems to be a lot of research work that focuses on energy. Two weeks ago I wrote about how silicon nanowires can provide lithium ion batteries ten times more charge. In the US there is another exciting development. According to Yahoo! News US scientists discovered a microfiber fabric that can generate its own electricity. It was estimated that it can generate 80 milliwatts per square meter of fabric. This amount is already sufficient to charge a cell phone battery. The article went on to explain that the fiber-based nanogenerator converts the mechanical movement of the body into electricity.

At first glance, it seems that there would only be small amount of electricity that can be produced by this fabric. However, such capability of generating electricity can be useful for workers who do not have an accessible power outlet. Also, sports enthusiasts can benefit from this technology because there would be no need to carry extra batteries for their phones or flashlights.

It would be an interesting development if the scientists can still improve the power generation capacity of the fabric. If the capacity could be increased then it could be another alternative to petroleum generated electricity. This development can make our country less dependent on petroleum and natural gas for the generation of our electricity.

See: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080213/od_nm/shirt_dc;_ylt=Amsn867g9kOb.iOnn_ODDrrtiBIF

Friday, February 15, 2008

crisis

THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly

By: Thomas Paine
December 23, 1776

Prostitution, Internet-Style

According to Yahoo! news, a German woman who became pregnant from an online sex auction has successfully compelled the Website which hosted the auction to reveal the names of the winners. The German Court is described to have upheld the "right of the child to know its father" over any confidentiality agreement between the men and the Website operators. Conservatists everywhere may hail the judgment as a preservation of the family as a basic social institution, but I find it difficult to understand how the scandal of online sex auctions can be glazed over by a discussion of the binding character of contracts.

While prostitution may be legalized in some parts of the world, it remains a heavily regulated industry, where sex workers are guaranteed employee benefits including union representation. An online sex industry--particularly one which crosses over to actual personal interaction--can hardly be classified in the same manner. In fact, such transactions would be decidedly criminal within Philippine jurisdiction, even with the woman's consent. The fact that the sexual encounters were in the nature of a prize is all the more disturbing. Has communications technology progressed so far as to justify the blatant peddling of female flesh?

Please see:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080213/od_nm/germany_sex_dc;_ylt=Ao2GRNmCWx5wtuQFN.6yzXes0NUE

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Moderate Greed

When asked what he thinks the President’s role in the scandal was, Mr. Lozada was initially hesitant to talk. “This might be taken as a political statement already. I guess she could have done more (by) moderating the greed.”

It’s funny how high-profile people like Mr. Lozada can talk about the different degrees of greed. I suppose the ability to differentiate the varying degrees of greed comes with age. It is also easier to judge the degree of greed of another person than one’s own.

It’s funny how Mr. Lozada does his theatrics while being interrogated. As earlier noted by many of my peers, he knows fully well that he will be facing the Senate cameras most of the time, and he seems fully rehearsed to have those facial expressions. Perhaps during the time he was gone, he practiced on doing some contortions. Let’s wait for that in a few days.

It’s funny how some Senators attempted to attack the “credibility” of Lozada, when they themselves were hardly ever credible (at least to me). Well, the people voted for them (or did they? Really???), and whether it was for sheer ignorance or lack of choices of the voting public, what matters is the consequence of some people getting elected because of that ignorance or poor choice. I guess those shortcomings are also more tolerable as we get older.

It’s funny how people behave when faced with killer questions. Mr. Lozada appears to tell everything he knows, which is very good for media purposes. Yep, only for media purposes because I honestly don’t think any of those greedy people he had mentioned will actually ever get prosecuted. And honestly, I do not admire his lack of loyalty, unlike Mr. Neri. “Honor among thieves”, we may call it, yet in that man, there is, nonetheless, HONOR. And by the way, my goodness, what happened to our dear Professor Bautista? I almost did not recognize him. I honestly do not know whether it was immorality or sexual harassment that led him to voluntarily stop teaching at the College of Law, but I was amazed that he blurted out that he was also charged for libel. As we can see, even the best of the best would incriminate themselves under the right conditions.

It’s funny how lawyers (and several of them from U.P.Law) have surrounded this entire fiasco. What’s funnier is that some of us who are blogging here today (and judging how those older people behave) may very well be in a similar situation many years from now. Of course, the gift of youth is that we do not see the grim future yet. Maybe by then, it won’t be about hundreds of millions, but several billions of dollars. Yet, as of today, we do not know that yet.

I will try to save these blogs so that one day, when one or some of us are being interrogated for being scammers, we can look back and do a self-assessment on the degree of greed that has developed in our veins over the years. And that, my friends, would be the funniest of all.

Paranoia kills

It was last Thursday (day before the 1st day of Senate hearing) afternoon when i overheard from the radio news that there was this witness on the ZTE scandal named Lozada who sought refuge from the La Salle brothers, gearing to tell the truth. Frankly, the first thought that struck me was, why do "these people" [people involved in government anomalies] like going to seminaries, brother dormitories, and the like, just about the time when they are in danger of being discovered? In this day and age in Philippine government and politics, would anyone who intend to be truthful really need the sisters and brothers to be able to tell the truth? I ask this because there are for sure credible people who never ever needed religious people to surround them when they wanted to speak the truth. So I thought only a person who does not expect to be believed [for whatever reason] would solicit the company of religious-looking people in order to actually secure a chance to be listened to.

Anyway, as I agonized hearing the Lozada testimony, I thought maybe he needed his religious friends to remind him to stay close to the light? This seemed more acceptable, at least, for some time. On the 2nd day, however, when those whom he implicated started to speak, I witnessed how Mr. Lozada played with the camera. Without judging which one said the most or the least lies, it was obvious that Lozada prepared well had a well-rehearsed facial reaction to the others' versions of the "truth". I swear, about 2 hours into the hearing, I could already predict the "look" he was going to show next. There were the innocently surprised, shocked and disbelief, exasperated and solicitating pity looks. Indeed it was a show! A disgusting one at that. A few more hours and it started to make sense. Mr. Lozada knew all along he was going to be in big trouble because he did something very wrong. He also knew he could not hide for long. It was just a matter of time. Someone badly needed his head. Before it occurred to him that he could get free lodging at La Salle, he did not know whom to go to; whom to trust. Paranoia, I hear, distorts one's sense of reality. It is possible he mistook "allies" for enemies. Or did he even have an ally in the first place? His denial that he ever sought protection from anyone sticks like a sore thumb. And personal bodyguards? Poor Mr.Lozada, I doubt that he is now off paranoia. But I never really developed a heart for whistleblowers. I don't think I will ever do. Whatever they say, one thing remains glaring for me. They would not have told the truth if their a**es were not on the line. That for me never makes them any different from the ones they tell on.

Oh well, if it is any consolation [to Mr.Lozada], let me just say I appreciate his "view" on what the basic flaw is in our government procurement system. Other than what everyone already knew about overpricing, Mr. Lozada pointed out that gov't procurement is supply-driven than need-driven. He explained that rather than having a genuine need determine what government will spend for, it is the supply available that dictates. Since the supply is controlled by an "elite" who have access to those in power, what happens is that the government adjusts its spending based on what is being offered by suppliers backed by political sponsors. In the end, the government spends to feed the business of a select group, enriching the latter in the process for goods and products that the government never really needed.




- Marichelle B. Recio

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lozada was in control

I think Lozado is desperately trying to save his own skin. He had nuns and priests around him, whats he trying to do? spark an edsa 4? :D
when he siad that he spoke to Senator Lacson before his appearance in the senate, i cant help but think that this is another opposition ploy? the scandal may have its basis but lozada was a poor choice as a snitch. Half the time hes crying and repeats everytime that hes afraid of Gen. Mascarinas. However Atty. Bautista said that when he signed the petition that he himself edited, he was on his own? During hes interrogation by Sen. Enrile it was apparent that mr. Lozada had control of the situation except for the driving around in the Metro, which he thought was another Dacer hit scenario, but could it be that Lozada is just afraid and has misconstrued the facts of his alleged abduction? I have this suspicion that this government Lackey has a new master.

Just a Query: is it true that Atty. Bautista was expelled from teaching in the college for immorality?

Ten Things I Learned From Mr. Lozada's Testimony

1. Mr. Lozada is a simple man. He has nothing to gain by coming out in public. He is consistent. He has a solid story. He was man enough to admit his sins. I'm not saying that he's a hero. But between him and his enemies, I believe that his story is more credible.

2. I am not bothered by the fact that Senator Santiago attacked Mr. Lozada's credibility. He may have committed sins in the past. But in my eyes, that does not lessen his credibility. After all, we believed in Chavit Singson once upon a time.

3. I can't wait to hear what Benjamin Abalos has to say about Mr. Lozada's testimony. To call Abalos a "siga" is an understatement. He has a lot of things to explain. I'm sure the people can't wait to hear his version.

4. Most of the senators are doing a good job, save for some who do not pay attention to the whole proceedings thus they end up repeating the questions of the other senators. I just hope the senators would avoid advancing their own political interests during the hearing. This is not the time for them to advertise themselves to the public.

5. I firmly believe that Mr. Lozada was taken against his will, regardless of the explanations being given by Atienza, Defensor, et al. What did the government have in mind? I shudder at the thought that this could have been another Bubby Dacer incident. Thank God, Mrs. Lozada went berserk when she did not see her husband. The police and this government have a lot of explaining to do.

6. The "kickback tradition" is known to everyone who has dealt with politicians on government projects. But that does not make it acceptable. The amount involved is immaterial, especially if it is in the guise of a loan that will be paid by the people.

7. It's sad that all these hearings are only in aid of legislation. I want something concrete to come out of these proceedings. The persons liable must not go unpunished. I believe that the attack on the people's rights of life and liberty are more important than the problem of corruption.

8. It's unfortunate that not too many people seem to be interested in this problem. The "tambays" prefer to listen to the FM radio stations than the coverage of the hearings on the AM band. I hardly hear people discuss this matter. Why aren't people reacting? Have they become immune to corruption? Are they tired of fighting evil? The economic growth and the lack of a better alternative are not sufficient reasons for people to be apathetic. Times like this, I really miss Cardinal Sin.

9. Romulo Neri is disappointing. He is the missing link. He knows the whole story. How come he does not want to testify? Is he waiting for his "personal tour" to Cavite and Laguna before he speaks up? I hope he deserves to have a loyal friend in Mr. Lozada.

10. Finally, I do not agree with Senator Allan Peter Cayetano's suggestion that Mrs. Arroyo must take a leave from office. I believe that the better solution would be for her to take an indefinite leave from her marriage to the man who seems to be the cause of all these problems.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A take on ZTE-NBN scandal: Playing the devil’s advocate . . .

Allow me to present an alternative, albeit a more pessimistic, point of view . . .

If Mr. Lozada’s testimony during the Senate hearing last 8 February 2008 is to be believed, then the ZTE-NBN deal would have been overpriced by about US $197,000,000.00. Now that is overpricing! Such expose should have engendered some form of widespread unrest or action amongst Filipinos, but it didn’t. His delivery of his version of what transpired with regard to the NBN-ZTE was made with a believable sincerity that should have inspired action, whether civil or in whatever form, as against those personalities he implicated in the overpriced broadband project. But from the looks of things no coordinated civil action ala EDSA 2 is imminent; there is not even a whimper of such action through text messaging.

The honorable personalities Mr. Lozada mentioned, FG and Abalos, will probably be six feet under, after enjoying the fruits of their labors (!!!!), before they ever have a court date concerning the allegedly overpriced broadband deal. These personalities will fight tooth and nail to spin the story and prevent any court date for as long as possible.

I do not wish Mr. Lozada ill, but after the media mileage on this story has been spent, he may well go the way of most whistle blowers, forgotten and broke, left by the wayside by the very people who once called him a hero (hopefully he has set aside something in the way of a retirement fund).

So what did we really get out of this expose except very bad publicity for the Philippines, we probably scared off or disgusted potential foreign investors and we still don’t have any plan to put in place a broadband network.

If the ZTE-NBN deal had pushed through and all parties performed their respective obligations, the Philippines would probably have a broadband network in place before the next presidential elections, another thing that the government could have bragged about in attracting foreign investors and a major step towards bringing the country's IT capability at par with those of more developed countries.

Now, was exposing this alleged instance of corruption in government, really worth all this trouble? Hopefully succeeding events would prove that YES is the answer.

Do we really need NBN?

The whole issue with Lozada and these Senate hearings all started with the government's idea of procuring a broadband network, with the goal to improve communication between government agencies. A National Broadband Network, according to DOTC, will save the government P27 billion in the 15-year span of the project, as well as reduce telephone expense.

But what is that P27 billion pesos compared to the hundreds of millions of US dollars to be paid to a foreign nation for a project which may be provided by a local company on a BOT (build-operate-transfer) contract, with no cash outlay for the Philippine government? Besides, how can we be sure that this broadband technology will not be obsolete in the near future, or is it even needed? If I am not mistaken, most government offices have internet connection already, even municipal halls in rural areas. Will that not be enough to provide connection within the government? Instead of resorting to such gargantuan measures like the ZTE deal, why not start with providing internet connection to all government offices, one sector or region at a time? It is something that local companies may provide and at lower costs. And the national government do not need to come up with one major contract but instead increase budget of LGU's or DOTC per region and they will have to take care of how they should do it. At least it is small-scale. We might not be sure of the results but at least we can be assured that the taxpayer's money that will be corrupted will not go to only a handful of people.

HONOR AMONG THIEVES

There is no honor among thieves. Right on the heels of the night of long knives in Congress came the morning of vultures in the Senate. Abalos, Lozada, and even some senators are nothing more than carrion eaters looking to pick scraps of flesh from the carcass of the Philippines. Everyone has an angle. The Philippines is not even a democracy anymore but a corrupt bureaucracy that exists only to perpetuate itself; the rule of law be damned.

With regard to Lozada, I don't view him as a hero. He is nothing but an imported goat loving Judas who betrayed his masters to save his own skin. He should be prosecuted for graft and corruption immediately as he has already extrajudicially admitted his guilt under questioning from Senator Miriam Santiago.

Aside from kidnapping, what crime did the alleged "PSG" men commit? The men who "abducted" Lozada were caught on CCTV. Aside from kidnapping, they committed unauthorized access. Wiretapping might be unavailing, as Prof Avena taught us that wiretapping requires that a wire be tapped. The interception of text messages did not involve any physical tapping of wires.

Corruption v. Instability: Beyond the NBN-ZTE Scandal

Much of the television and radio airwaves have been dedicated, for the last few days at least, to the unraveling story of the NBN-ZTE scandal. Dramatic as his appearance was, the damning testimony of Jun Lozada failed to electrify--if only because most of the country has already accepted the accusations against top government officials to be true, albeit unconfirmed.

In fact, Lozada's brave testimony has given rise to what appears to be the general sentiment of incredulity at the brazenness of government corruption. The public outrage that should have been engendered by such revelations appears to have been the first casualty in a country entrenched in a system of bribery and dishonest bureaucracy. The Neri directive sums the culture quite nicely: the honest public officer is really one who "moderates greed." As accepted as the culture might be, on the other hand, it is the status quo, and many administrations have operated--not always smoothly, it must be said--despite it. As imperfect as the system has always been, it has at least been predictable, and stable as far as that predictability allows.

The NBN-ZTE scandal places the country in a difficult situation: do we push for the punishment of the people involved, or do we rally for the kind of cultural catharsis that will prevent the problem from recurring? The former will only produce smarter criminals (which is not saying much), but the latter will do away with what token economic stability the country has achieved since the Asian financial crisis. The Makati Business Club has already aired its views regarding the impact of the scandal on the Arroyo administration, leaving room for thought as to the reaction of foreign investors.

Either way, it seems that only a token few are at the helm of a sinking ship that has traditionally floated just a few inches above water. Whether the Arroyo administration weathers the storm, or public sentiment causes politicians to jump ship and swim to safety, the question remains: where will the country go from here?

how the government works...

Public Office is public trust. It is all about public service. People fight their way to get elected in order to serve the common good of the public, ideally. Providing services to the people is one of the major roles of our government. The welfare of the public should be the foremost consideration of our public officials.

Information and communication technology is a much needed tool in the government today. The government’s undertaking of the National Broadband Network (NBN) project aims to create seamless connectivity among all national and local government agencies. Such will enhance the delivery of services to the people as it will cut down the time required in accommodating the needs of the public, lowering the expenses for travel, communications, and red tape and providing for interconnectivity between the different agencies who work hand in hand to look provide the public what it needs. (http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/june/10/yehey/top_stories/20070610top4.html)
The NBN project seems to answer the growing need of the government to adopt a more “updated and connected” information and communications technology. This would definitely enhance the government's ability to render services and would also make them more efficient. However, the problem arises with the inception of the project. Now kicks in graft and corruption.
The BOT is the more advantageous scheme to undertake in the NBN project rather than the project-loan scheme. This way, private sector would carry on the cost of the construction of the infrastructure & the network. However, since the public servants involved wants a higher cut, they preferred the loan arrangement. As Jun Lozada admitted in his statement, the officials get a cut in almost every project they undertake. The problem with this one is that the commission asked is way too high that it could finance a separate project all together. This is how government procurement works. Officials look at every chance they can get to serve their own self interest. And the way that corruption works in our country, even if they already get a big commission, they still manage to squeeze from the actual project itself, thus reducing the quality of the proposed project. We, the tax payers take in the blow with the poor quality of government services while we continually pay off our country’s debt. The public officers should learn the meaning of public trust & public service. They should also know that the opposite of public interest is self interest.

I actually found it funny that Sen. Santaigo tested the credibility of the witness by citing his own corruption problems. Lozada candidly answered this question and I guess Sen. Santiago was stunned. He didn’t deny any misdealings he had in the past. The goal of Sen. Santiago was to discredit him as a witness by painting him as a corrupt person himself. Thinking about it, everyone in that room got their share from one or more government projects. In reality, all our public officers got something from the people. As long as he’s not gonna pull a chavit, I probably can take his word for it in order to catch the “bigger fish”.

Has "The Cat" used up all of her 9 lives?

GMA has survived scandal after scandal and also several impeachment complaints. She's the ultimate cat woman with nine lives, me thinks. But could she have used up all of her 9 lives by now? Could her excellency still survive this scandal?

As gruesome as the ZTE-NBN scandal is, the fact that it is the people around GMA and not exactly the President herself who were directly implicated in the scandal could be buffer to her fall. But I think there is another scandal that must be noted here, which is the way that Lozada was "hidden" by the administration and the claims that the military were involved in his being hidden. The allegations of interception of radio/text correspondence, kidnapping, coercion, threats etc., all with the conspiracy of the military, of which GMA is the commander-in-chief--these directly implicate her in the fiasco.

I was particularly alarmed at J-Lo's narration that his "escorts" could hear the Senate people's correspondence and in fact had intercepted J-Lo's SOS text to his brother. This strikes at the very core of the people's privacy and security, matters we had gambled and lost during the Marcos' Martial Law era and which we dare not lose again. Perhaps these could be the pits on which she shall stumble.

But the success of a potential impeachment complaint is still quite dim. Slippery scumbags are hard to catch, and this cat may have just one more life left--enough to keep her alive until 2010.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Money is not just in IT

It’s a given that there is money in IT. That may be true but apparently there is a bit more if you have a career in government. The recent ZTE-NBN scandal points to the fact that there is money not just in IT.

A project proposal is essential to justify any undertaking. Cost benefit analysis is useful tool for evaluating the feasibility of a project. Given this, it is funny that in the project proposal for the ZTE deal, the telecom expense of the government was obtained from a tabloid. Ideally, it should have been more accurate had information been obtained from the government and not from a tabloid. It makes me wonder whether information from a project proposal is accurate or is it used as a justification for a bloated project cost. It is possibly a common practice, even in business, to add to the cost in order to cover for unexpected expenses. However, such is not the case in the ZTE-NBN deal and this was seen in the testimony of Jun Lozada. In this case, the overpricing could have been a tool to cover the commissions for government officials.

During the Senate hearing, he revealed an alleged $130 Million commission or kickback, which is a rather large commission. Sadly, the testimony of Jun Lozada did not only reveal corruption and kickbacks but suggested that common practice permits “moderate” kickbacks. How could any amount of kickback be okay? Unfortunately it appears that in government it is an acceptable practice to receive kickbacks.

This new development would definitely prompt more investigations. The problem with government investigation is whether or not there will be any action resulting thereafter. Would anyone be held accountable? It is more likely that after public indignation has died down that our government officials would move on to the next controversial issue.

Would any investigation be totally impartial? Will it cover all the necessary personalities? Probably not. In a news article (see http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=108488), the DOJ Secretary already said that some personalities mentioned by Lozada would not be summoned. In the article it was mentioned that FG Arroyo will not be summoned. Well, some may say that how can such an investigation be thorough? The people that would be summoned are: Lozada, Joey de Venecia and Romulo Neri. Well, in fairness to the DOJ it may only be a preliminary list and they would summon additional witnesses if the need arises.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Two Sides of a Losing Philippine Coin

While watching the senate investigation on television, I cannot help but notice the various comments made by and in reference to the country’s economic sector. The Makati business club, for example, feels that this issue might bring about calls for president arroyo’s resignation. Meanwhile, financial analysts say that the controversy will not affect our country’s economy.

I do not want destabilization. I like it that our economy is doing better. GDP is up, the peso is strong (equally due to a weak dollar), and foreign perception is improving. I think it is high time that we start getting our act together. We owe it to ourselves, each other and to the next generation of Filipinos.

Now, along comes this whole ZTE-NBN Hullabaloo. Apparently, it is not a fad because the issue has already given birth to several other controversies such as Secretary Neri’s testimony before the senate, Abalos’ resignation, JDV’s ouster, and now Mr. Lozada’s corroboration. Suffice it to say that the issue, in showbiz terms, has staying power.

Now I am still unsure as to the truth, but whatever it is, I believe the Filipino people will be at the losing end.

Assuming that these allegations are true, then I can no longer imagine how much money goes to corruption in our country. We all know it is there, but we never really knew how much. Now, we hear that 60 million dollars is the going rate (the apparent ceiling of Mr. Lozada’s “permissible zone”). People have always thought that we are not a poor country; we are just continuously being robbed. If these allegations are true, then this proves that we have been right all along.

Sadly, in this case, being right is not a good thing.

Now, assuming that these allegations are false (yeah, I know, bear with me), then what we end up with are forces in government and society who will not stop until they have dismantled the status quo. Motives vary but I am sure that most of them will not be to the benefit of our country. It will be the “talangka mentality” at work.

In the small chance that a mere hoax lies at the heart of this media frenzy, then what we end up with are forces that will always bring down whatever has been built and a society that refuses to embrace the spirit of unity.

So either way, it doesn’t look good.

I hope that something can be done with regard to this issue, but I hope that in the process, the economy is not decimated leaving the tired and weary Filipino to pick up the pieces.

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

Thursday, February 7, 2008

how did they intercept the texts? unauthorized access?

Lozada, in his interview, related how the men who took him told him to stop texting because they can read what he sends. I'm intrigued by this.

If they really could, I wonder how they can. Do they have a device that snoops on mobile phones, or does the devices "catch" the message and read it as it is sent to the nearest cellsite? Or did they snoop with the assistance of the private telecom provider.

If such a device exists that can "catch" and "snoop" outgoing text messages, is the use of it illegal? If so, under what law? If it is sent via a "handheld computer" can such snooping qualify as "unauthorized access?"

Moderate Greed

Moderate Greed is defined as acceptable limits for government corruption. Since stealing from people is systemic and unavoidable in Philippine society, people in the government have come up with a standard wherein corruption can be both beneficial to government officials, and at the same time acceptable to soceity. Common practice tells us that 20+% overpricing of government contracts qualifies as moderate greed.
This definition was given during the Senate hearing on the ZTE-NBN broadband controversy. This is clearly a reflection of the sorry state of the Philippine government. Based on Lozada's testimony, if the ZTE-NBN deal was overpriced only by 65 million dollars, Mr. Lozada himself would not have been there testifying. If only it was just 65 million dollars. That would have been moderate greed.
Acceptable.
When Senator Santiago bombarded Lozada with questions, inquiring into his credibility, it appeared that Lozada, under oath, confessed that he was observing moderate greed. But according to his own analogy, as ZTE-NBN broadband is to the NBA, his own practiced corruption is to high school intramurals. Clearly minor of the minorest leagues.
Still, his decision to testify was admirable. Let's just not get too carried away with his heroism. I wouldn't want to see another Chavit campaigning for election openly giving away money right infront of the camera. What if we just punish him for his unlawful acts based on his own testimony? Moderate greed or not, it's still corruption. If he faces them with head held high and serves his time with pride, then I'll give him a standing ovation.

4 Simple Steps

Cybercrimes are simply ‘crime’ with some sort of ‘computer’ or ‘cyber’ aspect; and like traditional crimes they too can take many shapes and can occur nearly anytime or anyplace.
The trend is that the attacks of cyber criminals only become increasingly malicious. The worse thing is that the methods used by cyber criminals continuously evolve to become more complex and sophisticated making their attacks harder to detect and prevent.
In the Internet Security Threat Report, Symantec Corp. reveals that the current Internet threat environment is characterized by an increase in data theft, data leakage, and the creation of targeted, malicious code for the purpose of stealing confidential information that can be used for financial gain.
In the company web site, Symantec recommends four “simple steps” to be taken when victimized by cybercrimes,
1. such as unplugging the network cable, phone, or cable line from the machine to prevent data from being leaked back to the attacker;
2. scanning the computer with an up-to-date antivirus program to detect and remove crimeware threats;
3. backing-up of critical information, which may be lost due to theft, or clean-up efforts after suspected theft;
4. and prompt closure of affected accounts (e.g. credit card and bank accounts).

In the end, end-users, whether consumers or enterprises, need to ensure proper security measures to prevent an attacker from gaining access to their confidential information, causing financial losses, harming valuable customers, or damaging their own reputation.

Microsoft Launches Open Value Subscription Program

Microsoft is now offering a new subscription model to small businesses that will allow them to use the company's software for less cost than the currently available licensing model. It is called Open Value Subscription (OVS) program. It is designed to give small businesses more flexible and affordable options for purchasing software, since the new plan costs about a third of the license-only expense for the current licensing program open to small business, called the Open Value (OV) program.

The new plan is cheaper because Microsoft offers upfront discounts for software purchased through the subscription program, and also allows customers to increase or decrease pricing over the three-year subscription period if their business needs change. OVS includes Microsoft's Software Assurance program, the company's software maintenance and support program for business customers. Microsoft defines small businesses as those with 50 employees or fewer. The reason is that Microsoft considers 50 employees the "break point", or the point when a company hires IT management. Of course, this is not true for some organizations, like where I work. We have only 23 employees and 5 of them are in the I.T. Management Department.

Small businesses will be able to sign up for the OVS program beginning in March. Microsoft products available through the program include Microsoft Office Small Business, Office Professional +, Windows Vista Business Upgrade, Small Business Server Client Access License (CAL), Core CAL, Desktop Professional Suite, and Small Business Desktop Suite. Likewise, as part of its small-business outreach, Microsoft also this week is unveiling a partner program called "Big Easy," which invests about $10 million in subsidies to small businesses purchasing products through partners. In any event, through the program, small businesses purchasing certain products through authorized specialist partners will get a certain percentage of money back that they can use to purchase other services from those partners.

Although there is no indication yet if this will be available to Philippine subscribers, products available for subsidies under the Big Easy program include Microsoft Office products, Exchange Server, Forefront Security for Exchange Server, System Center Essentials, Project, Visio, Office SharePoint Server, Forefront Security for SharePoint, and Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2006, among others.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mobile phones negative for cancer…for now

Technology has allowed a lot of “incurable” medical maladies to now become curable. But has technology also brought us the likelihood of cancer?

Study after study research on whether mobile phone usage is likely to cause cancer. The results of some studies show that it does, but some studies also show that there is no causal connection. Now comes another study that affirms the latter set of studies and “debunks” the alleged myth that is the causal connection of mobile phone usage and cancer.

Professor Bernard Stewart, an Australian cancer specialist from the University of New South Wales, has devised a five point system that lists the risk of cancer from proven and likely, to inferred, unknown or unlikely. His research was published in the Mutation Research Reviews journal.

According to this risk ranking system, smoking, alcohol and exposure to sunlight are the leading risk factors, whereas using a mobile phone was far less likely to cause cancer. But the study does not fully establish the risks associated with the long-term mobile phone usage. (http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/SYD80708.htm)

But how do you weigh the conflicting studies? It must be remembered that while the result of Professor Stewart’s research is thus, there is also a line of studies that says otherwise. I guess it’s up to us to determine which line of studies to give credence to.

Mobile phones and rebel attacks: The Learning Curve

The Independence Day celebrations in Sri Lanka have been fraught with drama. After a series of bombings rocked Sri Lanka and a call from a rebel group warned that there are going to be bombs in Colombo in some places, the military went on high alert. And one security measure resorted to was to block SMS on mobile phones for the duration of independence day festivities, in order to thwart attempts to organize the rebel attacks. Telecom companies advised their subscribers that text messaging services of all mobile operators would not be available from 6.00 a.m. to noon. (http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/COL81366.htm)

A smart measure on the part of the Sri Lankan government, in my opinion, especially in light of the success of the EDSA overthrow of the Erap government owing in part to the efficient coordination of “people power efforts” through SMS. And I think that measure would be a big bump on the rebels’ plans; it is highly likely that SMS is one of their main means of communication. It’s refreshing to see that there are actually countries that learn from the past experiences of their neighbors. Let’s just hope that the measure cripples the rebel attack but not the government’s efforts in thwarting the rebels and protecting the citizenry.