Saturday, August 30, 2008

Keeping families closer through the internet

As I was thinking of a topic for our class blog, I remembered I had to upload our latest family pictures to my father’s email. He sent me a message through yahoo messenger yesterday telling me how excited he was to see his apo holding the award he received from school. Then I realized how important the internet has been for our family.

My father has been living abroad for some ten years now, coming home every other year or so. All my siblings have also been living abroad as far as I can remember. The last time I saw two of my siblings was when I was 2 years old. I couldn’t even remember how they look like.

The only means of communication we had ever since was the telephone. Way back in the province, around 10 years ago, my mom and I had to travel an hour or so to the city just so we could use a public phone and call our relatives abroad. I remember I had to wait for two long weeks before my father could read the letter I sent him through mail.

Now, we just have to set a time when we all are available so we can open a chat room. One time, we were all using webcams – me, my dad, my 2 brothers, my sister, and their respective families. It was such a great experience, it was like having a family reunion online. Thanks to the internet, we can now talk to each other almost everyday.

Lack of support from NGOs

When I was assigned as a legislative staff of one of the senators in the Senate, one of our routine tasks was to draft bills and resolutions to be filed by our senator.

I remember we drafted many bills related to information and technology, namely a bill on cybercrime prevention and a bill on defining and penalizing cybersex.

As of even date, none of these bills have been approved. I think we are not lacking in legislation when it comes to information and technology. I think what is lacking is support and consistent lobbying for the passage the bills.

During committee hearings in the senate, where I myself acted as committee officer in charge, I noticed that when bills in IT were being discussed, only representatives from DOST and members of the academe were usually present.

Maybe it can be a big help if more NGOs would lobby for IT related bills in congress.

New webmail service at the HOR

The House of Representatives has included in its website ( a link where constituents can directly send their comments/letters and other concerns to their respective representatives through electronic mail.

I am presently working in the HOR as a legislative staff of one of the representatives. We routinely check the email account of our principal, but we have not received a single message from constituents.

I’m wondering if the problem is lack of access to the internet, or maybe people are just not interested in sending messages to their solons.

I think this initiative of providing a webmail system in the HOR is a big improvement. This will be helpful not only in facilitating communication, but also in increasing transparency in the HOR.

Trying to solve cyber crime

Last 21 July 2008, a House Resolution was filed (Resolution No. 671 entitled “Resolution Directing the Proper House Committee to Conduct An Inquiry, In Aid of Legislation, on the Reported Increase of Computer Related Crimes in the Country”.

This resolution, citing various news reports stated that 2,624 computer-related crimes were reported from 2003 to 2007. The cases included, among others, credit card fraud, hacking, pornography, and copyright infringement.

According to the news articles in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, which was also quoted in the resolution, there are only nine (9) operatives of the PNP CIDG who were assigned to investigate computer-related crimes.

Given the fact that computer-related crimes in the country continue to increase, it is unfortunate that our law enforcement agencies are not sufficiently equipped with the necessary manpower and technical skills to solve cases involving computer-related crimes.

If we really want to solve computer related crimes in the country, what we need initially is to provide sufficient training to our law enforcement agents. Providing incentives for recruitment of new law enforcement agents will also help.

Children and ICT

I’m really amazed at how early children nowadays can develop interest in computers.

Coming home from school, my five-year-old son always wants to sit in front of the computer. Usually, he just plays computer games. But sometimes, he asks me to teach him how to write letters using the computer. He studies how to use the keyboard. He even wants to use the computer when he does his assignments.

Sometimes it really amazes me how fast children learn how to use computers, not to mention cellphones. My son actually knows how to compose and send text messages, and to think he barely knows how to read his lessons in class.

In the school where my son studies, they teach computer lessons in the first grade. I believe teaching children how to be computer literate at an early age helps them speed us their learning capacity. Using the computer trains them to think faster, and to react faster.
If only we can provide computers for all schools in the country, particularly public schools. That would be a great help in improving the kind of education our children get.

Unfortunately, we still have to wait until our government can provide computers for public schools.

On a personal note, I’m not sure if I should encourage my son’s interest in using computers and cellphones at an early age. It can be helpful for his studies, but it can also distract him at the same time. I know it will take just a few months more before he starts spending hours playing those on-line games in the internet. He spends around 3 hours playing his psp now.

Is the Internet an Equal Playing Field for Online Business?


It is easy to put it up. It does not require much capital to start one. The minimum-budgeted entrepreneur stands at par with the high-profile one in the creation and development stage. It does not matter also wherever the business may be located. The online business in the city reaches the market that may be targeted by the online business in far-flung areas.



Because in the long run, it may be quite expensive. The individual or company with small profit margins may find it difficult to maintain and develop it. There is also a slim chance that the less-sophisticated business will figure as much as a well-maintained one in search engines. Advertising is necessary.

But then again

There are no limits to creativity and resourcefulness which may be facilitated by the internet. The online businessperson or company will just have to contend with that.

Transparency through E-Government

People are in great need of honesty and integrity in government. It is the only way you can overcome the cynicism that is developing among people. The more they can see how government operates, the more they feel that the government is operating in the open, the more confidence a government can develop. Probably the best advice you can give any government today is to be more transparent.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at Shangri-la, Makati

July 23, 2008

There are a lot of things which can be accomplished with the use of internet in government. Wikipedia cites three: efficiency, convenience and accessibility. Added to this should be transparency.

It is a lamentable to note that the project which could have further ushered the country to e-government ended up being relegated as a three-meeting discussion in Evidence class on executive privilege. Already dubbed as one of the most corrupt nations, Philippines could have done better with the computerization of government agencies and local units through this infrastructure.

But it is not altogether lamentable to note that there are small strides happening everywhere. The automated polls in Mindanao just concluded. SSS, BIR, GSIS, NSO, SEC and DTI are but few of the government agencies which have accommodated and put to use the concept

Indeed, there is still a long way to go towards a transparent government but these are noteworthy efforts towards achieving the goal of transparency.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Protection from Connection

Our professor always tells us that once we are connected to the internet, we are connected to the whole world, and anything could happen. Another mantra is that the safest computer is the one that has not been connected to the internet, ever…wait! It is actually the computer that has not been turned on.

Last week our boarding house landlady agreed to let us connect to the whole world, by subscribing to the P990 DSL bundle pack by PLDT. And then one of my board mates suggested to have a wireless router device, which expense my landlady eventually adopted.

It was great, I can sign in to my email anytime. I don’t have to wait for the rain to stop for me to go to the computer shop. I can blog on time. But recently I’m having problems with my computer. Unbelievably it slowed, and I’m slowly losing my faith in Kaspersky. Yesterday I had a denial of service attack – Word’s response time was a minute per command, per click. Unbelievable.

I thought maybe it was because I automatically connect to the internet because of the router. And that modified Trojans my version of Kaspersky can detect but cannot obliterate are lurking somewhere with a time bomb of denial-of-service attacks every now and then.

Maybe I should actually purchase a license key. I should stop downloading keys from that will only be blacklisted later. Maybe I should get the latest version.

It has been said that access to the internet is not for everyone. From those who have access, only a percentage are adequately protected. Among those who are protected, only a few have genuine license keys actually legitimately purchased.

Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power. It depends. Practical power needs money. For me to be able to defend my computer from viruses and other types of computer illnesses (ie malwares), either I buy a genuine computer security guard software or depend on freeware, which is not as reliable as the genuine. Well, I might just make the most out of freeware for now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The inequality spawned by the information age

Access to ICT is an enormous edge against those who don't. In third-world countries, majority of the populace have limited access to ICT, hence creating an elite few. The social pyramid is made steeper. An example of this is my day today. I have no internet access at home. Hence, I was not able to access my e-mail last night. Hence, I went to my ICT class not knowing that there is no class. Kidding aside, Information and Communication, although argued by some as fundamental rights, cannot be obtained without resources. Those with resources obtain these and make their lives more effecient and productive. Those without resources are deprived of a tool in productivity. And the lacuna coil goes on. ICT, in this sense, widens the social gap between those atop the social pyramid and those at the base. What is the first step in solving the problem? To listen to the lyrics of the song "Tatsulok."

The Blog as a Construction and Reconstruction of Identity

Our identities are necessary illusions – we never stop attempting to patch them up and to provide them with some plausibility but they are always threatening to fall into dereliction and to explode with unresolved contradictions.

John Mepham, Virginia Woolf: A Literary Life

Though I have never maintained a blog, I read a lot of blogs. And somehow after reading a particular blog, I get a sense of familiarity with the blogger. I cannot help creating patches of the blogger’s identity upon reading his or her random thoughts online. But in a world which acknowledges the existence of a fake blog and a fictionalized real blog, I should know that the identity and personality of the blogger can never be fully established.

Still on another level, even the blogger himself or herself should know that he or she cannot fully claim that the blog is the embodiment of herself or himself. He or she must take note that the self is constantly in flux such that the moment the blog is created narrating how he or she feels or thinks, he or she already feels or thinks differently consciously or unconsciously.

But for all its creative attempts to establish the self, the blog remains an efficient medium.

Therefore, even if the blog is considered as a faddish literary form, the blogger may get a momentary chance through this medium of establishing the self and getting fulfillment in the process. And for all the blogs I have read and the blogggers I have known, this is really evident.

The Lingua Franca of the Internet

According to a statistical compilation done by Kevin Walter and Philip Tomlinson for the State of the World Forum, 80% of websites in the World Wide Web are in English. The percentage of people who understand English, however, is only 10% of the six billion plus population of the world.

It is beyond doubt that English enjoys hegemony over the internet. It does not require further proof that many of the languages all over the world are not online. A big portion therefore of the six billion plus population does not enjoy the full benefits of the technological advances.

Many would claim that the use of predominantly one language, specifically English, online would foster unity and greater connectivity. But others would argue that it further promotes homogeneity to the detriment of indigenous or minority languages.

But whether use of English on Internet be bane or boon, it remains uncontested that it is the lingua franca of the net. And while the call for research for universally accessible technology by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon remains to be heeded, non-Englishes should see this as an opportunity. This should be seen as a challenge to the other languages to adapt and stand the test of time. The words of anthropologist Bill Reid ring clear. Cultures, [through languages,] should keep inventing or using new things to be able to survive and a culture [or language] that does not do this will eventually perish.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Online Ecclesiastical Marginalization

Posted on the Philippine Daily Inquirer today is the launching of a beauty pageant for nuns on the Internet. An Italian priest, Reverend Antonio Rungi, is said to be running a blog featuring nuns all over the world. He cautions, however, that there will be no swimsuits. He does this, according to the article, because he feels that nuns are a bit excluded and a bit marginalized in ecclesiastical life. “Miss Sister 2008” will be an occasion to make them more visible, he claims.

Just a few months ago, there was also news about the Church of England voting its support for women to become bishops. While women have been ordained as priests since 1944, they have yet to be allowed to become bishops.

The inchoate feminist in me would argue that the first scenario is not the antidote as the blogging priest would rather claim but a glaring exemplification of sexism and marginalization of women in the clergy done electronically. It still perpetuates the standard that women should be judged by their external beauty. On the other hand, the second would somehow matter more for women who aspire to be equal with men of cloth. Although officials say that women bishops are not possible until 2014, the second scenario certainly is a better and more significant change for women to “become more visible” as Reverend Rungi wishes to achieve.

It is a separate and long blog to discuss the changing morality that goes with modernity but certainly Reverend Rungi misses the point. And his blogging about nuns would surely raise more and more feminist brows.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Digital Yeats et al

On display in Dublin, or specifically at the National Library of Ireland is a notebook given by Maud Gone to William Butler Yeats in 1908. Opened only to a particular page, this notebook encased in glass is barely readable if not visible under the prescribed lighting for aged ink treasures. But thanks to advances in digital technology, this notebook is reincarnated. Every word is legible and every page is readable next to the display case.

So says a New York Times issue.

While many would lament over the advent of computers in particular and technology in general citing it as the primary factor why kids have shorter attention span and why people read fewer and fewer books, true literary enthusiasts can only rejoice.

E-books are all over the net. My friend read the entire series of Stephenie Meyers online. Poetry readings are equally available. T. S. Eliot reads “The Wasteland” himself online. Madonna and Andy Garcia recite a Neruda. Ralph Fiennes does the “Ode to the Sea.”

These are but a few of the many reasons a bookworm indulges in the Net. So, woe unto a mother or father or anybody who would rather see technology as a bane. Greater woe should be upon anybody who could not find an opportunity in technology to get into reading.

Online Burial

Along Quezon Avenue, a huge signboard warrants attention. It says, “ONLINE’ BUROL”. The advertisement is made by the company, St. Peter. Passersby can only get curious and bewildered.

Not too long ago, Philippine Star heralded the notion of a multimedia coffin. In its October 2007 issue, it featured this invention by Antonio Andes which has the capability to enable relatives in other places to express their condolences to grieving families in the Philippines at real time when connected to the Internet. Its display panel showcases a video stream of messages of those who are unable to attend the wake, a pre-edited presentation of memoirs of the deceased, last wishes as well as accompanying music or video during the wake or funeral.

I do not know what my grandmother would say to these developments especially in light of what I heard her utter before: that she would not believe one relative dead if she did not see the coffin. I dare not ask what she would opine regarding people getting buried and grieved upon this way.

But the advertisement along the road can not get any more conspicuous. We really are living in different times. And while science fictionists still have a lot of ideas to toy with, technology is making big steps proving that what once was only a figment of imagination, is already possible and better still, available for all.

Law, ICT and PWDs: Then and Now

In 2006, while working as a Legislative Researcher for a local politician, I had the privilege of working and interacting with People With Disabilities (PWDs). My office partner and I then decided to draft an ordinance and hoped that it would pass the local council’s final reading, just in time for the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week (NDPR Week), which is celebrated every third week of July. What my partner and I had in mind was a comprehensive local legislation, something like a Magna Carta for the Physically-Challenged (as PWDs are also called).

This particular (self-imposed) assignment was something close to my heart. My youngest and favorite sister (I know eldest children should not play favorites, but…) is a PWD, who is entirely dependent on her family. And somehow knowing the kind of help that my sister needs gives me an idea of what kind of assistance PWDs need.

In the course of doing research for the proposed ordinance, I was informed by the Director of the National Council on the Welfare of Disabled Persons (NCWDP), now the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), that technology has made life much easier for PWDs. They asked for our help if we could request the local officials to sponsor the provision of special computers to the hearing-, speech-, and visually-impaired among all public schools in Quezon City. They said Braille was already a thing of the past.

Two years after, I look back at those times. My partner and I might have been successful in having the ordinance passed in time for the NDPR Week. Its being implemented though, is a different issue altogether. Also, we were not able to secure the support of the local government in funding the computer units the PWDs were requesting. Maybe, these occurrences are what jurisprudence brands as Pyrrhic victories.

My recent online search on the progress of local and national legislation on this matter leads me to House Bill Number 03774 (An Act Providing Telecommunications Systems Accessibility to the Hearing-Impaired and Speech-Impaired) or the "Telecommunication Accessibility Enhancement Act", which went through the First Reading on April 22nd of this year, or almost a month from the time it was filed by Congressman Rufus Rodriguez (co-authored by Hon. Victoria Reyes, Hon. Eufrocino Codilla, Hon. Narciso Santiago, and Hon. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva). The bill seeks the adoption of a national telecommunications system that is fully accessible to the hearing-impaired and speech-impaired.[1]

My friends working in Congress told me that the bill remains to be in the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology. According to them, legislation of this kind might not immediately be signed into law despite it being of a “National” Significance, but usually go unopposed (well, depending on the funding involved in the bill).

Methinks my friends working in Congress are right. And me hopes, too, that its passage does not become another Pyrrhic victory.

(for the week 24 until 30 August)


Friday, August 22, 2008

The Voice-Over, the Voices Behind,
and the Voice Within:
A Send-Off to the 2008 Bar-takers

“And now I wonder why the passing rate for the Bar exams lowers every year, considering how technology is supposed to make things easier. Imagine, during our time, we never had those audio codals. We read the original texts of the law and jurisprudence. Read and read until it hurts... And even with human frailty and without the convenience of technology, our batch managed to have a high passing rate in the Bar exams. You, young people, have everything. And yet, and yet... So, who gets the blame – technology or you?”

I don’t think these words gave someone, who is to take the bar in the next weeks, the much-needed boost; much so, if they were spoken by a seasoned lawyer, to whom that barrister[1] looks up to.

In a recent lunch with The Barrister, the conversation took off from how the audio codals have been of great help during review. And trying to veer away from the “pressure talk” on the upcoming exams, and not having tried using audio codals, herself, The Law Student found the topic apt and interesting. The Barrister claims that for the last weeks, these sound recordings of the provisions of law have been a constant companion. The codal provisions were like music to The Barrister's ears.

After asking to be pardoned for not knowing what audio codals are, The Seasoned Lawyer integrated himself into the exchange while The Barrister and The Law Student explained how all the laws fit in iPod, as well as how this review aid awaken a sense often neglected, and puts to rest a sense frequently abused, during castaway bar reviews.

The conversation ensued as to how popular audio codals have become. That in most discussion threads among bar-takers, audio-codals are sought-after. That in Law Schools’ Bar Operations, audio codal sales are fund-raisers.[2] And that even in an article written by Chief Justice Panganiban, where the 1960 Bar Sixth-Placer quoted the words of topnotchers Atty. Arlene Maneja[3], Atty. Joan de Venecia[4], and Atty. Mercedita Ona[5], one of the tips was to “Listen to audio codals when you travel.”[6]

The Seasoned Lawyer’s apparent amusement over modern technology slowly faded. It was then that he blurted out his so-who-gets-the-blame question. As if not enough pressure then floated in the air, The Seasoned Lawyer asked if listening to these voice-overs has a great deal to do with passing the Bar exams. “Do these audio codals help make lawyers?” To which, The Barrister and The Law Student gave no definite replies.

Later, in a reply sent by The Law Student to The Barrister, “I’m not sure either how much of a help the voice-overs are. I’m definite, though, that there will be voices rallying behind you, cheering you on. Maybe that fact will somehow help make you a lawyer.”

As an afterthought, maybe, it’s really neither the voice-overs nor the voices behind the bar-takers that “make lawyers” (quoting the Seasoned Lawyer). It’s those, coupled with the voice within, that heart to make it, that maketh the barrister a lawyer.

And while you, guys and girls, muster the heart and strength to hurdle the Bar, be assured that we are cheering you on.

(for the week 17 to 23 August 2008)

[1] A term locally used to refer to people who are taking the bar. In reality, though, “The barrister is a lawyer who has been admitted to "plead at the bar." That means that he or she has been called to the bar by the "benchers" of one of the four Inns of Court (Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Gray’s Inn and Lincoln's Inn) and, subject to pupilage requirements, is allowed to appear in court to argue a client's case. Prerequisites to call include attaining a second-class honours degree, attending the Inns of Court School of Law, or other validated Bar Vocational Course provider, for a one year term and passing the "bar final" exams. The call is followed by a one-year pupilage in chambers, where the novice lawyer benefits from association and attendance at court with an experienced barrister.” (
[3] 2002 Bar Topnotcher, University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law graduate
[4] 2005 Bar Topnotcher, University of the Philippines College of Law graduate
[5] 2007 Bar Topnotcher, Ateneo de Manila University College of Law graduate
[6] Panganiban, Artemio V. “CJ Panganiban: How to Pass, Nay, Top the Bar Exams”, With Due Respect, The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 19 April 2008.

The need to regulate the practice of computer science as a profession

In the information age, computers facilitate progress and interconnectivity of societies. From international corporations to production of farming vehicles, computers are now utilized in all aspects of living. As practitioners in other essential fields of human knowledge are required to be regulated by the government through the Professional Regulation Commission, the establishment of the computer science as a profession will protect and benefit technological and economic progress. There will be a pool of recognized experts society can confidently depend on to expertly address their computing needs. The reasons for not regulating computer science as a profession are misguided beliefs on what the science of computing is all about; as expounded in a previous article, computer science is different from information technology. The systematic study of the science of computing can be regulated, such is different from knowledge of various computer applications founded upon the practice of this science. Traditional reasons to shy away from licensing computer scientists before they can exercise their specialized knowledge to the public – such as difficulties in categorizing fields of computing – do not defeat the imperative need to regulate it as a profession. Most aspects of living are now dependent on computers which are, in one way or another, dependent on computer scientists.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

VOIPS Are Two-Faced

No,no,no, not the two-faced definition, one of a traitor, pertaining to a person who does not have any loyalty at all. Words are interesting, are they not? They could mean two or more different things all at the same time. It is true, definitions and choice of words, both provide for a richness of understanding. They can also be subject to disputes. Such is true in this case.

The regulation/deregulation of VOIPS stems from the main issue as to whether or not they may be considered as PTEs (Public Telecommunications Entities) or VAS (Value-Added Service) providers. If they fall into the former category, as per RA 7925, the Internet Service Providers who provide VOIPs would have to “ first obtain a legislative franchise, and to apply for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) from the NTC to engage in a particular telecommunications service. In the latter case, it must show that it has the legal, financial and technical fitness to operate the service.”[1] If classified under the latter, as a VAS provider, which is described as “ (entities) which, relying on the transmission, switching, and local distribution of facilities of the local exchange and inter-exchange operators, and overseas carriers, offer enhanced services beyond those ordinarily provided by such carriers,”[2] the above requirements need not be met. As a VAS provider, ISPs only have to file an application with the NTC- definitely a trip to the part, so to speak, as compared to when it is considered as a PTE. Right now, it is classified as a VAS provider. [3]

I believe that VOIPs may be both considered as PTEs or VAS providers. I know, I know, it is totally against the tenets of being a lawyer of having to always take a stand, but how can I take one if I know that this ‘ambivalent’ position, one may call it, is the correct one?- that which yields more insights and possible ideas on addressing the colloquy on it. Besides, what I am discussing is policy, not arguing for a specific case.

Why I believe in VOIPs’, in a say, DUAL character

There is some merit in the Telecom companies’ contention that VOIPs are PTEs for VOIPs may provide the exact same service to consumers- talk to each other in any place, at any time. But then, VOIPs may also be considered as a VAS provider, for the reason that such is only a value-added service, only one among the many services provided due to its multi-faceted nature.

I think the fundamental distinction as to whether or not it may be considered as a PTE or a VAS is dependent on how VOIPs are marketed and used. Some VOIPS are marketed and used solely as a ‘telephone service’. However, there are some end users, who use VOIPS- a product of internet technology which has a myriad of features and functions, only as an ‘enhanced service’. Therefore, in different circumstances, VOIPS may be considered as either a PTEs or VAS providers.

Ideas on Providing Resolution

As mentioned in Reyes’s article in The Philippine IT journal, VOIP: to regulate or not to regulate, the Philippines is not alone in confronting the said issue. Other countries have faced and tackled the said issue differently. Most noteworthy among those mentioned was the move done in the Canada. To quote, “Canada, meanwhile, makes a distinction between Internet data applications, which are free from regulation, and Internet applications that provide an alternative to public switched voice services, that are regulated. IP telephony between telephones, therefore, is subject to regulation. IP telephony service providers are treated like any other telephony service providers and must contribute to universal service funds, but only if the service they provide is between telephones.”[4]

I believe that such a move must be adopted in the Philippines as well, in addressing the issue. This is hinged on what has been established earlier that VOIPs can be either be PTEs or VAS providers, depending on the circumstances. As such, there must be distinction on the kind of VOIPs that can or cannot be a subject to regulation- the former, if a specific ISP offering VOIP fell in the PTE category; the latter if another ISP providing VOIP does so in such a way that VOIP would fall into the definition of a VAS provider. To this end, a clear classification between different ISPs , to know which must be regulated or not, is in order.

The Word: Two-Faced

VOIPs are two-faced, meaning, they exhibit two different, even contrasting attributes depending on the circumstances. Using such an adjective brought a bit of confusion, eh?

Maybe this is all just word play you know. To be considered as PTE or VAS providers, so what right, one may think? But hey, these words do matter. They make all the difference.


[2] RA 7925

[4] Ibid.

The New (Super) Computers May Just Be The Ones At Your Fingertips

Admittedly, as a third-world country, we have a lot of ground to cover in order to catch up with the technological trends of our first-world counterparts. But we can help usher in new frontiers of science and technology in a different way, through volunteer computing.

Volunteer computing allows computer users to donate unused storage capacity in your computer – basically your computer’s unused processing power and storage capacity – in order to solve a myriad of scientific problems, such as cancer and stem cell research, global warming, even finding life on other planets. What the process does is it allows for the burden of solving these complex problems to be split into smaller, simpler problems and computations which are then worked on by individual computers around the world.

On the average, there are millions of personal computers around the world whose capacities are underutilized. PC owners, more often than not, have more storage space than they actually could consume. The theory behind volunteer computing is that while one single supercomputer will take forever (if at all) in arriving at the desired solution to the world’s problems, the cumulative amount of all the unused processing and storage power may very well be the answer – providing answers to problems a single supercomputer would never have been able to crack, and at a quicker pace, at that. The numbers clearly add up: a typical supercomputer has the power of about 5,000 processors at any single time, but imagine what 300,000 computer processors could do for a cause. That amount is what the Folding@home project has, a program actively studying alternative measures to solving diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer.

Very much like donating your money to charity, computer owners can choose to donate their PC power to any scientific cause that they believe in. All it takes is the download of a special software which allocates and delivers work for your computer, which your computer will then send out to the central server once it has accomplished the task.

The forerunners of this new trend address qualms about computer security (such as susceptibility to viruses) by using digital signatures and encryption technology such as code signing. Trusting the scientists behind the experiments and calculations has been another issue, though I find this rather trivial, in light of the lengths users go to do download media for free on the internet. If we as PC owners can trust a stranger of a peer-to-peer network when he verifies that his data is uncorrupted, how could we doubt programs such as these that have professional and academic backing – and with nobler goals than just scoring a free download no less. In the long run, it remains a PC owner’s job to assess a particular project’s value and trustworthiness. It is, after all, a volunteer program – no one is forcing you to participate unless you are truly on board.

Naturally, participating as a volunteer (or donor) will not be without costs. A zealous participant may want to keep his or her PC on for longer hours in order for it to be able to accomplish more work. Also, another natural consequence would be a decreased PC performance. Looking at the bigger picture, however, I think we can all safely say that the benefits would definitely outweigh the costs. Perhaps, policy could even play a role in promoting participation in these kinds of programs. In streamlining computer activities by apportioning a bulk of its capacity to solving a “nobler” cause, we may just minimize the emerging evils brought on by idle time online.


When I first heard about the VOIP via yahoo messenger, I was enthusiastic. No more high-costing phone bills because of NDD charges. But we still use the telephone for NDD calls.
Using the telephone does not make us pay for extra electricity. Before, for a modest home like ours, we opt not to open the computer when we’ll only be using it for a short time. But now, we rely on our internet connection for academic and entertainment purposes. But we still don’t rely very much on the value-added service of Voice Over Internet Protocol.

I spoke with friends via the VOIP only for a couple of times. But I chat with them more. I ponder on why I don’t maximize my usage of the VOIP when I was so enthusiastic when I heard about it in the first place.

A reason I can think of is because of the quality. As far as I understood the Discussion Paper on VOIP by the NTC, the voice becomes jumbled all the way until it reaches its destination. And then it is reconfigured. The voice in VOIP is robotic and warbled. And it sounds like one is listening from a small hole. There are echoes. It can be better. I wonder about people who meet mates online and talk via VOIP. And then they see each other in person. They have to get used to the voice coming from the mouth of the person in front of them. They have to coincide that with the voice they dream about whenever they just finished talking with that person via VOIP.

Maybe another reason is that the internet is very private. This is in the sense that when one sits in front of a computer, the person sitting interacts only with himself while commanding the computer. It’s a guilt-free pleasure for sadists – the commanding part. Any existing site you wish to go to quench your thirst for knowledge, you easily can go to. Versus talking live, chatting is more private. Plus with live talking, one needs composure. That’s immaterial when icons and smileys can suffice for less effort.

But in its totality, VOIP is a great value-added service.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Illiteracy and Elite-aracy

The recent ARMM elections also served as an experimental run for an automated 2010 National Elections.  The COMELEC used two different methods, each using two different machines, to facilitate the election process in the region.  One method used the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) and the other used the Direct Recording Equipment (DRE).  The first method is the system more familiar to the public.  It is the same system employed in aptitude examinations and Lotto.  The voter is given a card or a sheet of paper listing the candidate’s name and shades the oval or connects the broken line corresponding to the candidate of his choice.  The card or sheet is fed to a machine that counts the votes.  The second method is more direct as voters cast their votes by touching the name of a candidate on the screen of the machine networked to a system and the votes are immediately counted.  Reports concluded that, apart from a few minor technical problems (and the usual desperate attempts at ballot snatching), the ARMM elections was a success and the COMELEC assures us that we are ready for an automated election process in 2010. 

The initial optimism about automation would revolve around the improvement on the overall ease and efficiency of the whole voting and counting process, the increased speed and accuracy of results and the perceived improvement in the integrity of the election process due to the minimization of human participation (which says what about our presumptions of human nature?).  The glass is half full.  Automation is good (let us line the street with flowers and welcome its descent upon us mere citizens of the third world).  This optimism is probably well-founded but where is it all coming from?  Perhaps the excitement about this impending technological development of an age-old process comes from a bourgeois perspective, a capitalist or middle class idea that qualifies development through mechanization.  The lower/working class certainly does not want machines invading their work territory.  The evil contraptions will just put them out of work.  The capitalist wants efficiency but the laborer doesn’t want it at the expense of his wages.  I’m not saying automating the elections will put laborers out of work.  I am not parallelizing industry with the elections.  I am, likewise, not proposing that the legislation authorizing automated elections was elite legislation and was passed despite protests from the lower class (What do I know?  I don’t really watch the news).   My assertion is that, election automation probably has, at its core, bourgeois presumptions about the voting population and might (underline might) debilitate the right to suffrage of some citizens, especially those belonging to the lower class. 

I focus mainly on the presumption of literacy.  Literacy, which is a privilege for the lower class, yet is generally taken for granted by the upper and middle class.  When I use the term literacy here, I use it broadly as referring to conventional literacy – being able to read and write, and computer literacy – basic knowledge of computers.  Automating the election process presumes, at the very least, two things: (1) The voters know how to read as they will be reading the candidate names either on the pre-printed ballot or the computer screen, and (2) The voters have a working knowledge of the process of computing – for the OMR, that the machine will recognize only properly marked ballots; for the DRE that the machine will recognize touch as a vote and count the vote automatically.  The facts are these:  Not everyone is literate but everyone has the right to vote.  Both presumptions, in some way, circumvent the constitutional mandate that no literacy requirement should qualify the right to vote.  Although not unconstitutional, per se, the voting mechanics nevertheless assume that the voter has reached a certain level of education to be equipped with basics of automatic voting.  The second presumption also tends to emasculate the right to vote as: (1) in the case of using an OMR, an inappropriately marked ballot caused by ignorance of the rules may be discounted, and (2) in the case of using a DRE, machine voting might intimidate technologically inept voters causing them to forgo voting altogether.  Of course, these fears and considerations are not conclusively real nor entirely unworkable.  They can be overcome by proper instruction and adequate assistance, especially to those who are the least familiar and least exposed to computer technology.  Instruction should be expansive, complete and simple.  It is expansive when it reaches every voter in the country.  It is complete when it covers both the mechanics of voting and the nuances of processing such vote so that it can be counted as valid.   It is simple if it can be understood by someone with little or no education.  Assistance, on the other hand, should not in anyway amount to influence on the voter’s choice, otherwise, that would be an emasculation of the right to vote in another guise.

I am all for automating the elections (takes out “Go Automation 2010” banner) but I don’t want to see people making up excuses not to vote nor hear them say or see them act that they are reluctant to do so for fear of looking stupid or ignorant.  Nor do I want to see votes wasted because people did not fully understand or listen to or were not informed of the mechanics.  I especially do not want to see know-it-all election officers or volunteers or voters carrying their weight around, shouting and abasing those who display unfamiliarity with the new voting system.  Show some respect, brotha!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Because of the way the Internet is built, it is able to grow and change in a manner more rapid than we could ever expect. And while it is true that it indeed has countless benefits, it also has countless unintended consequences that deeply affect the end user in a way that (I believe) no one ever foresaw.

Trolling is one such effect of the internet’s dehumanizing aspect. The net allows people both express on a world platform what they once could not express, but it also allows people to hind behind handles or profiles, lending complete anonymity to their actions online. The result: complete non-accountability. An internet troll has been defined by Wikipedia as “someone who posts controversial and irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion”. At a time when people groom their online personas as meticulously as they groom themselves, trolling has become more dangerous than ever.

In an article entitled “Malwebolence” by Mattathias Schwartz, published by the New York Times, trolling’s more dangerous after-effects are made known – shedding light on this dangerous new development yet perhaps giving more of the undeserved attention that these trolls seek. Some of the acts detailed in the article have led to public embarrassment and humiliation – such as Jason Fortuny’s (a self-proclaimed troll) act of pretending to be a woman and posting a fake on Craig’s List for a “str8 brutal dom muscular male”. Fortuny posted the names, photos and contact info of the men who responded on his blog under the heading “the Craigslist Experiment.” But some acts can be more dangerous, such as the trolls’ attack against the Epilepsy Foundation website – flooding the site’s forum with flashing images. At least one photosensitive person with epilepsy claimed she had a seizure. And then some attacks are fatal. The article talks about the suicide of a 13-year old girl named Megan Meier after receiving cruel messages from a boy she had been flirting with on MySpace. It was later found on that the boy was in fact not real, but a fictional creation Lori Drew, mother of one of Megan’s former friends. What is increasingly unnerving about this emerging trend is the amorality that comes with the trolling.

“Lulz”, a corruption of LOL (laugh out loud), is what trolls use to rate and keep track of their actions. The article defines “lulz” as “the joy of disrupting another’s emotional equilibrium.” It is “watching someone lose their mind at their computer 2,000 miles away while you chat with friends and laugh,” said one ex-troll in the article. According to the writer, the rules for lulz are simple: “1. Do whatever it takes to get lulz. 2. Make sure the lulz is widely distributed. This will allow for more lulz to be made. 3. The game is never over until all the lulz have been had.”

In the days following the Megan Meier suicide, a controversial blog called Megan Had It Coming came out. As a blog supposedly written by an anonymous classmate, “the blog called Megan a “drama queen,” so unstable that Drew could not be blamed for her death. “Killing yourself over a MySpace boy? Come on!!! I mean yeah your fat so you have to take what you can get but still nobody should kill themselves over it.” After a third post, the author came forward, saying she was Lori Drew. But it wasn’t her. It was, in fact, another Jason Fortuny experiment, designed to “question the public’s hunger for remorse and to challenge the enforceability of cyberharassment laws”. While this particular act of trolling (putting up a pretend blog designed to irk affected people) is not as dangerous as the others, does this kind of justification make it okay? How and where do we draw the line then, between which motives are valid and which ones are reprehensible – criminally punishable, even?

According to Fortuny, when justifying the attack on the Epilepsy Foundation’s site, “demonstrating these kinds of exploits is usually the only way to get them fixed.” But what of trolls who merely “do it for the lulz”?

And then there are some who do it for other reasons entirely. They seem to have assumed the role of gatekeepers whose primary task it was to rid the Internet of participants whom they didn’t deem worthy. Weev is one such troll. “I want everyone off the Internet. Bloggers are filth. They need to be destroyed. Blogging gives the illusion of participation to a bunch of retards. . . . We need to put these people in the oven”, he said in the article.

"Weev" has attained superstar status in the trolling community. “He is said to have jammed the cellphones of daughters of C.E.O.’s and demanded ransom from their fathers; he is also said to have trashed his enemies’ credit ratings,” the article outlines - some of his many infamous troll pranks. He lives what he calls the “ruin” lifestyle — “moving from condo to condo, living out of three bags, no name, no possessions, all assets held offshore.” Being a member of a group of hackers called “the organization,” which, according to him, brings in upward of $10 million annually, he says he can wreak ruin from anywhere.

I remembered shuddering with frustration as I read some of Weev’s more dangerous ideas in the article. In talking about his philosophy of global ruin, he has this to say: “We are headed for a Malthusian crisis,” he said, “the question we have to answer is: How do we kill four of the world’s six billion people in the most just way possible?” I fear the day that a plausible answer will come to him.

In the article, the author Schwartz asks whether or not free speech includes both the power to move away from the truth as well as towards it. I am unsure as to whether it’s better to redefine what can be covered under free speech and expression or to police the troll’s action by gauging how damaging the effects of the prank are. It is a presumption that an person intends the consequences of his actions, after all.

In the US, several states have proposed putting forth legislation responding to the growing trend of cyberbullying – making it a crime to send or post communication with the intent to cause substantial emotional distress. But what will fall under the scope of that law, were it to be passed there, or in our country? Also, an unintended consequence of a comprehensive regulatory law which punishes content tending to cause emotional distress would be to curtail freedom of speech in what may very well be the last frontier of pure and unadulterated free expression.
If making such behavior legally contemptuous leads to consequences too ominous than the behavior it seeks to prevent, perhaps the answer lies merely in empowering the end user. After all, trolls thrive on the emotional torment that comes from being affected by what they post online. The simplest and most immediate way to fix the problem, then, is to pay trolls no mind.

The actions, though some are not yet legally punishable, are morally reprehensible. I am of the opinion that some accountability must be had, even though there may be consequences. I say this because it cannot be denied that the anonymity the internet provides has awakened some of the basest, most deplorable instincts that some would never have acted on if it weren’t for the certainty that they wouldn’t get caught. If we don’t at least attempt to police it now, who knows to what extent it will grow in the future?

The whole text of the article may be viewed here:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

With the Aid of Technology Without Which The Crime Would Not Have Been Committed

The Issue:

In Criminal Law, a person is punished the same way as another who instituted the direct act of accomplishing the crime, if it be proven that without the former’s help or contribution, the latter’s effort would not have been fruitful.

Would that hold the same for the makers and producers of technology used as a necessary means of accomplishing a crime?

While I was reading up on China and the Internet Filtering sanctioned by the said nation’s laws through state orders and regulations, the issue surfaced (that has yet to be resolved) as to whether or not the businesses that supplied China with the necessary technology to be successful in China’s curtailment of the human rights to free expression and right to access of information, be held accountable in the same way as China would be, on the occasion that China is to be made to pay for its acts.

This brings to mind the concept of technology and the responsibility of its manufacturers and distributors. The said business is profitable, to say the least. To get more people to buy is the way so as a company will not only thrive, but also flourish, for the production of more technology to generate more income. However, this must be subject to limitations, don’t you think?

Technology, as with persons, may be considered as a valid mode or means to the culmination of a criminal act. But unlike people that have the capacity of thought, choice and reason, these are objects subject to control of their makers. The essence of conspiracy in a crime is that the person who aided another has all the faculties to assess a given situation, and amidst the knowledge and capability to discern right from wrong, of what would hurt and bring detriment to another, that person still chose or became fully negligent in assisting another to commit a transgression of the law. One cannot say the same in technology and its creators.

The Whys:

One, the intent of the makers of a specific technology is difficult to ascertain.

Although a specific type of computer program or hardware, or both, have been specifically produced to suit the needs and specifications of a client, with the awareness that it may be used to the detriment and curtailment of the rights of another person or groups of people, it will be difficult to hold the companies liable for the aforesaid violations of the law that may result from the use of the technology produced. Companies may always feign innocence to the intentions of their users or cite realization of profit, a main principle of business, in doing so.

To illustrate: it is a reality that technologies are sold en masse. As compared to China’s case, wherein foreknowledge of how technology will be used is easier to prove and that these have the probability to impede various recognized rights, one cannot say the same for technology sold in a larger scale. Thus, it will be infinitely hard to determine each and every intention of the company in making such- of whether or not they have produced such objects to enable the commission of crimes or to make profit.

Two, companies do not have full and direct control over their consumers’ use of what they have produced. These companies can always avail of the excuse that these companies made the technology to provide its consumers with technical solutions for the speedier transaction of their businesses. They should not answer anymore when the situation arises that an ingenious technology user violated laws with the use of technology they have spawned.

However, as earlier stated, technologies produced may directly cause the effectuation of certain criminal acts. Surely, the companies that produce these have knowledge of a computer program’s limitations, and more importantly, an idea of their capabilities . Surely, they could have had knowledge on the scope of power of the technology that they have made and anticipated the transgressions of the law and the harms these may cause.


The law must recognize the important role of companies in the making of certain technologies and as to whom they sell these to. These may be used by consumers for the improvement, and on the flipside, the destruction of lives. To hold a certain company liable though for acts committed by its consumers is a gray matter, wherein facts and circumstances of the situation must be determined first to arrive to a conclusion of such. A guide to such would be the looking in of the relationship between the production of a specific type of technology by a company and their intention in doing so, taking into account their foreknowledge of their consumers’ intentions in purchasing and using the technology that the company has made.

Taking all the above considerations, in the coming up on laws involving cyber crimes, one must take into account the integral role that technology makers and distributors play in the picture. As such, they must not be scot-free of the effects of the technology that are their brainchild. However, as merely, in a say, mere agents in commission of crimes, they must not be wholly and solidarily liable for the acts of the users of their technology.

In Criminal Law, a person is punished the same way as another who instituted the direct act of accomplishing the crime, if it be proven that without the former’s help or contribution, the latter’s effort would not be fruitful. But in Cybercrimes, the law is not so clear. Those who are currently fashioning laws in relation to such must take the distinctions into account.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pirates vs. Corporations 2: Sailboats vs. Warships

This is the second of two articles analyzing the benefits of allowing multimedia and software intellectual properties to be reproduced and distributed without license, i.e., to be pirated.

State of the Country with Piracy vs. without Piracy
Without movie, music and software piracy, the Philippines would less happy, less progressive and less wealthy as it is today. Not to say that the country is very happy, progressive and wealthy, but the situation would have been a lot worse if not for software piracy.

There is more utility, i.e. amount of happiness, in allowing multimedia and software to be pirated in the Philippines. As stated in the last article, the usual intellectual proprietors victimized by pirates are large multi-million-dollar corporations. Large corporations will get economic utility if piracy is stopped. Hence, they will continue to be in business and exist. If piracy is allowed, everyone else becomes happy. Pirates will obviously become happy because income will be distributed to numerous entrepreneurs instead of coagulating in accounts of large corporations. Consumers will get the most utility both economically and psychologically: economic utility because obtaining pirated movies, music and software will not harm financial reserves as much as purchasing original ones; psychological utility because consumers will be able to enjoy various movies, music and software instead of being able to purchase few expensive originals. Even in the extreme circumstance that large corporations shut down, the impact on the society is negligible for these companies are few as compared to the entire population.

It is common knowledge that most offices and small-to-medium scale enterprises in the country do not own original software. If all are required to use original software, most offices and enterprises would not be able to operate, or at least be as efficient as they are now using their pirated software. Much productivity of offices and enterprises come from the use of computers; but without essential software such as operating systems and word processors, most businesses would not be able to use computers and be plagued by lack of order and manpower. The proliferation of cheap pirated software in most offices and enterprises allowed the masses to easily set-up businesses and nurture the health of microeconomics in the country.

Also, knowledge development will suffer. Virtually all schools and homes nowadays need computers; and operating systems are required to run these computers. It is no secret that most computers in schools and homes, especially in the provinces, use pirated operating systems and office programs. If there are no available pirated software, it is a modest estimate that 90% of students and homes will not be able to use computers. That would translate to the same percentage of loss in knowledge development in the country.

If in every purchase, there is flow of wealth: the purchaser becomes poorer and the vendor becomes richer. If original software is bought, a considerable amount of money is transferred from a person to a large corporation. With the current economic status of the country, it is an enormous financial burden to buy an original movie than a pirated copy. If consumers are forced to purchase originals, a large fraction of their income will be given to international corporations instead of devoting their money to basic necessities and wellbeing. The total wealth loss of the country would be tremendous: for example, Windows XP costs 5,000 pesos, and, on the average one resident per baranggay purchases Windows XP (there are at least 70,000 baranggays in the country), the country will transfer 350,000,000 pesos to Microsoft for the purchases of Windows XPs alone, without any programs to install and use on them. Money will leave the country to be paid to foreign corporations instead of circulating within the country. This is unacceptable to a country wherein children die due to poverty.

Software pirates are like sailboat merchants who keep the local economy lively and give utility to consumers. Large corporations who own most law-enforced intellectual properties are like warships that consume much wealth for its mere upkeep. For poor countries such as the Philippines, it is better to have small sailboats available to the masses than few large naval warships that would consume much of their resources.

Currently, Philippine sailboats do outnumber Philippine warships. The country cannot afford expenses of warships, but its masses could use services of sailboats. This set-up also exists in Philippine movie, music and software reception. The country will suffer more in spending for originals; in the end only upper class will purchase movies, music and software – creating social injustice, widening the social divide and depriving the masses of the fruits of the brilliance of the human mind.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The IPL Paradox

The developments in information and communication technology have spawned various platforms for intellectual property rights infringement.  The Internet, for example, has created a virtual world marred with opportunities for infringement – from YouTube to sites hosting blogs, fan fiction and fan subbed video streaming to torrent and peer-to-peer sharing.  The Internet has, in a way, given unauthorized control over artistic, literary and scientific work to the masses driving publishing and production companies and creators and holders of intellectual property rights, in general, to a gray legal battle between right and infringement.  These legal battles are based on a system of intellectual property laws that has constantly embraced a single fundamental policy even through the passage of time and developments in society.  The sole underlying policy behind our current intellectual property laws is to encourage socially and culturally relevant creation by providing incentives to create through guaranteed protection of the creator’s economic interests.  These creations are viewed as necessary for the advancement of society.  However, this very strict and one-sided intellectual property protection policy may very well hamper the social and cultural development sought by encouraging creation.  It creates a commercial and cultural monopoly that limits the social usefulness and cultural relevance of a creation in a world beset with inequalities.

In the TRIPS Agreement, for example, both product and process is patentable.  A company can, therefore, acquire a patent for both the end product and process of production effectively preventing its competitor from producing the same or substantially similar product.  This has two consequences: (1) Market monopoly which gives price control to the producing company, and (2) A research-intensive policy for the competitor companies which research expenses will be eventually passed on to consumers as part of the product price.  Both contemplate a situation where a breakthrough product will be expensively priced when it enters the market.  This situation especially pervades in the fields of useful sciences and arts such as medicine and technology.   Yes, a public harm is cured or public convenience is achieved, but to what extent?  Does it reach every end user for which its conception was originally intended for?  Can the poorest nations of the world afford that breakthrough medicine to improve public health?  Can they afford that new technology to improve their national economy?  Present intellectual property laws seek to protect the inventors and creators specifically to motivate them to produce work that will consequently benefit society.  But when this work is produced does it ultimately benefit the communities that need it most?

The same paradox exists for artistic and literary creations.  The limits the current intellectual property laws place on the use or distribution of literary and artistic works may curtail the cultural and social growth which these works purportedly promote.  The right to create derivative work, for example, belongs to the copyright holder.   However, the inclination to alter, restyle or add  to a particular body of work does not necessarily come from the author or copyright holder.  Such was the case for Alice Randall’s book The Wind Done Gone which was a retelling of Margaret Mitchell’s classic Gone with the Wind from the point of view of the slaves.  Certainly, the latter made the former more culturally and socially relevant in terms of understanding history through fiction from the point of view of an alternate class and race.  Fan fiction, in the same way, derives from the original work and allows the masses to participate in the creation of culture by altering or adding to the original work.  However, fan fiction is, strictly speaking, an unauthorized borrowing of the author’s idea and, therefore, is an infringement of his rights.   Even unauthorized distribution of copyrighted work through streaming or file/torrent sharing can be viewed as part of cultural development.  When a movie from one country, for example, which would not have been commercially distributed in another country reaches the citizens of the latter through internet file sharing and consequently influences such citizens artistically, there is some cultural enrichment or evolution that results from such unauthorized distribution.

I am not developing a communist theory of intellectual property ownership.  My point is that while there is certainly a social value to protecting intellectual creations, there is also a social value in relaxing this protection.  Perhaps, it is high time to develop intellectual property law so that it can accommodate the same social intricacies present in property law, e.g. tackling issues of distribution of wealth or individual right versus public welfare.  It is, perhaps, timely and apt to introduce the concept of balancing of interests to intellectual property law to account for unequal opportunities to access and use of useful and relevant material.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Going to the US? Don't Bring Your Laptop

…or anything electronic, for that matter. America has gotten so paranoid that it has unleashed yet another wave of anti-terror measures.

Reports this week have disclosed the Department of Homeland Security’s new policy which gives Federal agents free reign to take your electronic devices and hold them for as long as they like. Their basis: several searches of seemingly suspicious people which turned up “violent Jihadist materials” and images containing child pornography. These discoveries have been the foundation for such legislation, grounded upon the the baseless idea that most “contraband” material enter their territory unchecked inside electronic devices such as these.

Certainly, after the shock that was 9-11, the United States is expected, entitled
even to implement security measures in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. But we cannot correct one wrong with another. Under the new powers granted to federal agents securing ports of entry (by land, sea, or air) are so broad that they do not even need grounds to suspect wrongdoing. In fact, the law doesn’t establish any criteria which informs travellers whose computer can be searched. All that a federal agent needs in order to search your laptop (or IPOD, or hard drive, or thumb drive, or digital camera, or mobile phone, or book, or pamphlet, or diary, or anything capable of storing information in digital or analog form – or anything else on you for that matter) is that he has “some level of suspicion” in his mind that you may or may not be breaking the law. This is discrimination of the highest level and an assault on our universal rights as humans to life, liberty, and property. Certainly, with legislation such as this, travelers who wish to enter the United States do so with the fear of knowing that how they look and carry themselves may very well lead to an invasion of their privacy, and this fear acts as a censor which prevents them from expressing themselves and from documenting such expression by storing them in these electronic gadgets which were created exactly for that purpose. It is today’s equivalent of the “chilling effect” which we were so guarded in preventing.

To try to alleviate the public outcry against this egregious piece of policy, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that travelers are only subject to a secondary, more thorough level of investigation when a level of suspicion exists. But this statement does little to palliate. Without clear guidelines as to who may be subject to search, and what behavior is to be deemed “suspicious”, the matter is left entirely up to the federal agents’ discretion. This is illegal and there is no justification for it.

To add to that “chilling effect” already looming inside your head, just this April, the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed the government’s power to conduct searches of an international traveler’s laptop even though there was neither proof nor suspicion of wrongdoing.

Those who desire to be irked and frustrated may view the policy here:—authori ty.ctt/search—authority.pdf.

"Trial By Google"

Nah. It’s not one of those internet ads and freebees popping out of your side screens when you open portals or while in the middle of accessing dot coms.

It is a term I first encountered while doing research for a case I was tasked to look into months ago. (And again, due to confidentiality, couldn’t say much.) A blogger used the term to connote the habit of people making judgments out of easily accessible information over the net, particularly those which are accessible from the Google Search Engine, akin to the phrase “Trial by Publicity”.

Let’s just say that in 2003, Google records 112 million searches per day.[1] I guess people just stopped counting from there; it would be like counting the stars. To date, not only does Google produce the majority of search engine traffic in its own right,[2] it also supplies results to practically every major site. Its influence knows no borders and caters no race. As they say, “If your site is not listed in the first page or two of Google results you can expect to receive little search engine traffic.”[3] (Side story: I am reminded of a Law Professor who in his advanced age, who would say this in class – “Who knows what it is? You, Miss, did you google it?" I'm sure Miss Bautista, Miss Caslib, Miss Lee, MissTanedo, and Mr. Manahan knows who he is.)

Google makes the line “the world at your fingerprints” truer than ever. Ask, it shall be answered; knock and the door shall be opened unto you. Key in your name (just like Wesley Gibson did in “Wanted”) and see how the world sees you. Key in a stranger’s name and make judgments on him. Fast and easy.

In 2008, though, the phrase “Trial by Google” has acquired a specialized, not exactly new, meaning. It’s become to stand for the means used by (Australian) jurors to access information out of the courtroom; a way they used to research information on the cases they are currently handling.[4]

Reports reveal that “In one case, a retrial was ordered after two jurors visited the scene of the rape during the trial. In another case, a woman convicted of murder appealed, unsuccessfully, after it emerged a juror had researched her history on the internet.”[5]

And national officials blame both instances to the access of some jurors to information outside the court through Google. Trial by Google, in other words.

As a response, in May 2008, Victorian Attorney General Rob Hulls revealed the attempts of the Australian government “to stamp out the increasing trend of jurors accessing information about cases outside the courtroom, jurors who turn to the internet to undertake their own research during trials will face hefty fines xxx up to $13,000.”[6]

The proposed law seeks to prevent further occurrence of similar cases in the future, and to ensure that jurors and panel members made decisions based only on the evidence in court -- the very essence of due process that every court of justice seeks to uphold.

It might not what makers Page and Brin had in mind when they conceptualized the search engine in 1996, but their creation has definitely been changing society and people’s lives in a very different way.

(for the week 10 to 16 Aug 2008)


[1] “Don’t say ‘Search Engine’, say ‘Google’. (
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] “Jurors Have Been Warned Off Google” (,23599,23771432-421,00.html)
[5] ibid
[6] “Victorian Jurors Told to Keep Away from the Internet” (,25197,23770700-5006785,00.html)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Citius, Altius, Fortius
(Faster, Higher, Stronger)

The laconic phrase that sums up the Olympic ideal, while giving a command to participant athletes to reach their utmost potential, also affirms that winning is not everything, for the important thing is to take part.[1]

The Olympic ideal is not just every athlete’s code. It’s every human being’s credo -- that in everything that we do, we should aim to get better.

With the controversy involving the Olympics organizers themselves (International Olympic Committee [IOC] and the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games [BOCOG]), this creed is again put to the test.

Faster Mode of Winning the Bid?

Maybe it’s the perfect-symmetry principle of Chinese Astrology that motivated China to bid with the IOC (against rival candidates Toronto, Paris, Istanbul, and Osaka) to host the 2008 summer Olympics. Whatever it is, in April 2001, the Chinese government made a commitment and pledge to the IOC.

In a Report of an IOC Commission, “it was confirmed to the Commission that there will be no restrictions in media reporting and movement of journalists up to and including the Olympic Games.”[2] In July of the same year, guided by that report, IOC members voted in favor of Beijing. Until earlier this year IOC press chief Kevan Gosper said the issue of unrestricted Internet access during Games time had been discussed, and he voiced confidence that China would comply.[3]

But just ten days before the opening ceremony, the once confident Gosper said that IOC had reached an agreement with the Chinese government that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered “Games related”, to wit: those pertaining to human rights, religious freedom, Tibet and the Falun Gong mediation sect, as well as some foreign news sites. The thing is, many news and rights-related sites carry information on social disruption and security clampdowns directly linked to China’s preparations for the Olympics.[4]

Higher Forms of Breach

On the surface, the non-compliance of the Chinese government with its original commitment to make no restrictions as to media reporting may appear to be a simple form of breach. But the international press, as well as the Human Rights Watch, thinks otherwise. To them, not only did IOC (and BOCOG) infringe the Olympic Charter,[5] it actually helped perpetuate censorship, one of the most common abuses in China today.[6]

Human Rights activists look beyond a simple type of breach (which would actually qualify as a breach due to intrinsic fraud[7] under Philippine Civil Law). As Aidan White (General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalist) puts it, “This really does go against the promises that were made by all sides – in both Beijing and by the IOC – that journalists would not be subject to censorship,” said.

International media treats China’s policy as a form of media censorship, which violates internationally established human rights to freedom of access and of expression, which are embodied in a number of international declarations and conventions, some of which are the following:

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the “Individual freedom of belief, speech, association, freedom of press, right to hold assembly.”

United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Economic and Social Council declares that “[T]he right to seek and receive information is not simply a converse of the right to freedom of opinion and expression but a freedom on its own…. [T]he right to access to information held by the Government must be the rule rather than the exception. Furthermore, there must be a general right of access to certain types of information related to what may be called "State activity," for example, meetings and decision-making forums should be open to the public wherever possible.”[8]

Stronger Reasons for Clamor

It seems that the IOC has never been on the forefront of as much criticisms in the past as it is now. Could have been because they “stepped on” the rights of the most assertive and opinionated class of people – the journalists – who, despite censorship, find ways to get their message across.

One thing is definite though. With the accession of the IOC to China’s policy on “sufficient access”, the end to these debates is mooted. But it deserves no scant interest nonetheless.

On the one hand, past doubts as to the possibility of China’s turning back on its own word, proved to be true. On the other hand, IOC closed a deal with China, in the aim of promoting an anti-political and a purely sporting event. One claims that its rights, internationally recognized at that, to have been violated, while the other asserts that its own right to an anti-political and criticism-free hosting would have been violated if the other would be allowed to access everything. While one party clamors for "free" access, the other asserts that "sufficient" access is all we could give.

So, which is which? Whose side carries more weight?

Citius, Altius, Fortius?

The best gauge is the Olympic ideal, the often disregarded core of the matter. It would definitely give more weight to that which brings everyone closer to it.

As has been stated, the aim is to reach everyone’s utmost potential; to take part more than to win; to get better.

With the availability and expansion of media technology, its proper utilization, and the commitment to keep it available, the internationally recognized right to freedom of access and of expression (or "to take part") should become better. Any attempt back out on a commitment, which will eventually curtail already-guaranteed freedoms in the guise of “sufficient access” will, in no way, make things reach their utmost potential.

For who can claim that he can exact what is sufficient from that which is free? And that what it claims to be sufficient is that which will make things better?

There’s definitely something wrong in prior restraint. And that is what China and the IOC are guilty of.

(long paper due 08 August 2008, 4pm // 1,025 words)

[1] One World, One Dream: The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, August 8-24 2008 (
[2] Excerpt from a 2001 IOC report evaluating Beijing's host city bid. (Source: IOC)
[3] Internet sites still blocked for Olympic reporters, 30th July 2008, 10:03 GMT (
[4] ibid
[5] Chapter 5.49 of the Olympic Charter provides that “(t)he IOC takes all necessary steps in order to ensure the fullest coverage by the different media and the widest possible audience in the world for the Olympic Games.”
[6] Sophie Richardson, Asia Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch
[7] PAWI vs. Fasgi (2000): “In fine, intrinsic fraud, that is, fraud which goes to the very existence of the cause of action - such as fraud in obtaining the consent to a contract.”
[8] , “Promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Abid Hussain, submitted pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1997/26,” E/CN.4/1998/40, January 28,1998 paras. 11 & 12. The Commission of Human Rights endorsed the special rapporteur’s statement, Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/42, April 17, 1998.