Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stagnation in Regulation

As I was doing research on my SLR, I stumbled upon an article published in 1994 that described and evaluated the telecommunication industry in the country. The article entitled, "The Institutional Foundations of Regulatory Commitment: A Comparative Analysis of Telecommunication Regulation" was written by Brian Levy and Pablo Spiller and compared five countries' regulatory and investment environment. The Philippines together with Argentina, Chile, Jamaica, and UK were the subjects of the study.

Needless to say, the Philippines together with Argentina are in the losing end of the telecommunications spectrum. Dubbed as a 'rent-seeking presidential system', the Philippines regulatory history was characterized by, 'long standing regulation by commission with vague mandate, lack of political independence and modest power.'

Moreover the investment climate in the Philippines undergoes a political cycle wherein the amount of investment is determined by the winning political power in the elite. As a consequence, investments have been seasonal, poor and lacking.

Fast forward to 2010, and with the same political background much is left to desired. Telecommunication indeed has expanded and doubtless that investment has grown but it not so much that our laws have changed or that the politicking has stopped but rather the change was ushered in by the swift advancement in technology. Regulation has stayed the same but because telecommunication companies needed to keep up with technology, they are forced to invest more and provide more.

Paul Obmina, post #10

The F-List that Went Viral

What's the worst thing that could possibly happen if you decide to make a Powerpoint presentation -- complete with pictures, graphs and numerical performance ratings -- of every single sexual exploit you've ever had back in college and you send it to three of your closest friends?


The resulting shame and (hopefully) remorse is probably just the tip of the iceberg. You'd probably be on national television and have a Law and Order: SVU episode in your honor (or is it ignominy?). You'd probably have to deactivate your Facebook and Twitter accounts just so you don't have to see the barrage of hate mail and death threats.

This widespread social stigmatization is exactly what Karen Owen, a graduate of Duke University, experienced when "An education beyond the classroom: excelling in the realm of horizontal academics" was leaked to the fraternity houses, campus servers, and then the entire world, late last year. If you haven't seen it yet, you can read the document in full here.

The privacy leak sparked heated debate and touched on many issues: internet privacy, gender bias, morality. As for me, it got me thinking. Yes, what she did was morally wrong on so many levels but with all the other f-lists online how come she's the only one figuratively burnt at the stake? Is it because she's female? Is it because of the detailed transcripts of essentially private "pillow talk", the p*nis size evaluations, calling the men "subjects" and the sexual acts "experiments"? It didn't help that most of Karen's subjects were popular school mates, fraternity men and members of the varsity -- guys who were adored, admired and probably, even feared. While women the world over are sexually objectified every day and, maybe for the first time, Karen's male "subjects" felt what it was like to be at the receiving end of the blistering end of private-gone-public scrutiny.

This surprising gender role reversal far from justifies what Karen did and she has, in fact, publicly apologized for it. Sexual objectification -- whatever the gender -- should never be condoned. But there's a lesson to be learned here. So next time, before you make comments about what happened last night and with whom, just think, the same thing might just happen to you.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Globe's crappy service

There is indeed a curious clause in the service contract I signed with Globe for my internet. It states that "P2P download speed is restricted to a maximum of 20% of the subscribed maximum speed regardless of type of plan."

Likewise, there’s provision for monthly total volume of downloads depending on subscribed packages:

Plan 384Kbps : 15GB per month
Plan 512Kbps : 20GB per month
Plan 1.0Mbps : 25GB per month
Plan 1.5Mbps : 30GB per month
Plan 2.0Mbps : 35GB per month


I am of the understanding that once you subscribe to an internet service, you can use it in any way you want it to use. Globe reasoned that some consumers tend to use it abusively and as a result, affects the whole network.

This is a very unfortunate situation. What Globe should have done was to improve the quality of its services by expanding the network, not by putting a bandwidth cap on all users.

Again, this displays the lack of teeth of our laws when it comes to abusive practices of the telcos.


Lately, I have been addicted to watching the teleserye, Imortal. However, I am not able to watch it everyday and so I search for episodes of it in the Internet. I was able to find the past episodes I missed and also those which are called webisodes. This is, of course, good news to those who are not able to watch it religiously since they can catch the episodes they missed plus some more additional episodes. However, I wonder if these webisodes and all other shows available online are still subjected to review by MTRCB.

As we all know, MTRCB reviews all television shows and motion pictures that are shown to the general public. And so, the movies and the teleseryes that we watch go through the stringent process of being reviewed by the Board Members of the MTRCB. What happens is the production company or the distributor submits a copy of the movie or television show that he wants to air or exhibit plus all other advertising materials (posters, trailers etc.), and a sworn statement declaring the exact number of prints made for the picture to be examined.[1] The decision is supposedly issued within ten (10) days from the date of receipt of the Board of the application of the movie producer or distributor. Should the movie company receive a negative review then, they will have to file for a motion for reconsideration to the Board, which of course will take up more time. I am not sure if the webisodes shown in the Internet are subjected to that kind of review. But if they are not, then I guess that gives those production companies airing their shows through the internet an unfair advantage.

The law does not provide clearly which media will be subjected to the MTRCB’s review. Or if it does, then I guess, it is outdated because it merely concentrates on old media industry such as the television industry. If the MTRCB really wants to review the contents of what the media is showing us, then maybe they need to review their rules so as to adapt them to the changing times and to cover new media such as those streamed or downloaded in the Internet. This is to make the regulatory agencies fair to all media practitioners. They should not be stuck with what the law enacted at the time when computers are not yet widely used and the Internet is unheard of. Doing so would only render their constitution nugatory, and give undue advantage to the new or emergent and unregulated media.

[1] Sec. 6 PD 1986

Entry # 10

Pia Augustha G. Agatep

Friday, January 28, 2011

iPhone vs. iTouch

The theory goes that the more technologies converge in one product, the better received such product will be in the market. However, when you use a product, there are more factors to consider than just multiple intersections of technology. For example, people are saying that mp3 players and cameras are becoming obsolete because their functionalities are already integrated in cellular phones. Why buy two or three products when you can buy one item capable of doing the functions of all three, right? More importantly, as one blogger put it, you only have one pocket to place all these items in anyway.

But, as I said, convergence isn't the only consideration. Companies have found a competitive foothold by capitalizing on the quality and not just the capacity for convergence of their products. Let's take the iPhone and the iPod touch. They have the same functions except for one: the iPhone can make calls and send SMS. During the earlier phases of the iPhone however, the overall performance of the product suffered greatly because the call and text functions weren't stable yet. This bogged down the entire software and generally created a whole bunch of pissed off consumers. The downside for the iPhone therefore became similar to that of the iPod: you couldn't make calls.

Even arguing that the iPhone has improved, it is highly noticeable that iPhone users use the music player functions of their iPhones less than iTouch users. The fact is, the more functions are available in one product, the less that those several functions are used for their individual purposes. Think about it, when was the last time you used the video or music player functions of your cellphone? So as it is, the mere fact of convergence doesn't create a competitive edge for companies. Competition doesn't have to focus on having technologies available through one medium. Competition may still be driven the old-school manner: by producing quality products outbidding each other in conditions and attributes.

Maricris L. Real
Entry # 10

Thursday, January 27, 2011

LPO Destination: Philippines*

Globalization is a policy, not an act of God.

– Jimmy Carter

Globalization, ushered in by falling costs of telecommunications, has led to the disaggregation or “unbundling” of traditional functions of companies into workable units of business processes, and its distribution to those capable of performing it most efficiently, without regard to national borders. Beyond the outsourcing boom in the industrial, manufacturing, and technology sectors, there is a growing trend in the outsourcing of knowledge. In this area, Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) is currently the fastest growing sub-sector.

In 2009, the Philippines received the Best Offshoring Destination of the Year Award from the United Kingdom’s National Outsourcing Association. The Philippines is also considered as one of the largest English-speaking nations with a strong orientation in information technology and a sizeable talent pool. Arguably, no other LPO destination country can boast of closer cultural, legal and educational similarities with the United States than the Philippines. Moreover, the number of Philippine lawyers who sit for and pass U.S. bar examinations gives the Philippines an advantage over any other LPO destination.

The feasibility of LPO in the Philippines, however, does not automatically translate to the viability of LPO as an alternative area of practice among Philippine lawyers. Philippine lawyers cannot simply jump onto the LPO bandwagon without considering the pervading ethical issues Specifically, LPO entails a radically different perspective from the current regulatory framework of the legal profession in the Philippines. Whereas the current framework in regulating the practice of law considers four important relationships – lawyer and society, lawyer and courts, lawyer and client, and lawyers and other lawyers[1] – LPO as an area of practice focuses on entirely different aspects of relationships created by delegation and outsourcing. LPO mirrors the new paradigm in which the legal profession is no longer seen as a unique profession entitled to differentiation, but is part of a larger group of “service providers,” all of whom can be regulated in one regulatory regime. As Terry correctly observes, this new paradigm reflects “a fundamental, seismic shift in the approach towards lawyer regulation.”[2]

In the Philippine context, for instance, the legal profession has always been characterized according to the following criteria: 1) A duty of public service, of which the emolument is a by-product, and in which one may attain the highest eminence without making much money; 2) A relation as an “officer of court” to the administration of justice involving thorough sincerity integrity and reliability; 3) A relation to clients in the highest degree fiduciary; and 4) A relation to colleagues at the Bar characterized by candor, fairness, and unwillingness to resort to current business methods of advertising and encroachment on their practice, or dealing directly with their clients.[3] Thus, in the debate between “profession” versus “business,” the Philippines has always taken the side of “profession,” under the fundamental premise that membership in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions and carries with it the responsibility to live up to its exacting standards and honored traditions.[4]

On the other hand, the paradigm of lawyers as “service providers” adopts a regulatory framework which will probably subject lawyer regulations to a benchmarking that cuts across national borders as well as other professions.[5] This has far-reaching implications on the issue of regulation of legal services in the context of trade.

A legal and ethical framework for LPO should function both as a way of regulating LPO activities in the Philippines, and a device for fostering a legal environment conducive for its entry to the Philippines. The paradigm of lawyers as “service providers” forces the Philippines to rethink the way it presently regulates the practice of law, and to consider other possibilities consistent with globalization, a process in which the Philippines have become inexorably and irreversibly involved in over the past decade.

Meanwhile, inasmuch as present LPO activities continue unregulated, it has been argued that traditional rules of professional conduct and principles of tort liability will not prevent outsourcing, although these may well render it less efficient.[6] This proposition poses certain challenges in the attempt to develop a legal and ethical framework for LPO. However, it would also seem that the emerging paradigm of lawyers as “service providers” does not, in any way, limit the possibilities for regulating LPO; rather, it redefines the approach towards its regulation, one that considers the similarities between the legal profession and other services that are capable of being traded in the global market, as well as the unique complexities and characteristics that continue to be relevant in the legal profession.

*Excerpt from my own working paper.

[1] R. Agpalo, Comments on the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct (2004).

[2] L. Terry, The Future Regulation of the Legal Profession: The Impact of Treating the Legal Professions as “Service Providers,” 2008 J. PROF. L. 189 (2008)

[3] In re: Authority to Continue Use of Firm Name, 92 SCRA 1 (1979)

[4] R. Agpalo, supra note 1 at 3, citing Ledesma v. Climaco, 57 SCRA 473 (1974).

[5] L. Terry, supra note 2 at 206.

[6] M. Daly and C. Silver, Flattening the World of Legal Services? The Ethical and Liability Minefields of Offshoring Legal and Law-Related Services. 38 GEO. J. INT’L L. 401, 447 (2007).

Salma F. Angkaya

Entry #9

We are the Champions, My Friend

January 28--yes, THIS Friday--is Data Privacy Day. The celebration of this international holiday is an indicator that the world is getting more and more responsive about the relationship between IT and the expectation of privacy, including the legal and political issues surrounding them, otherwise known as information privacy or data privacy.

States appear to be the foremost characters in this effort to safeguard personal information in the internet. Albeit politically motivated, they are in the best position to regulate. United States, together with Canada, established Data Privacy Day just last year in response to the need of raising awareness about the importance of protecting the privacy of their personal information online. Europe for its part came up with the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, which extends privacy safeguards for personal data undergoing automatic processing. Japan and China, on the other hand, have actively participated in drawing up the Convention on Cybercrime, which aims to harmonize national laws, improve investigative techniques and increase cooperation among nations in order to address internet crimes.

In the commercial and business world, the motivation to cooperate in protecting data and information is not really politically inspired. ICT companies are actually pushed by competition. The leading internet browsers’ response to data privacy is a perfect example. Earlier this week, Firefox and Google Chrome announced that they are getting tools to help users block advertisers from collecting information about them, and that these “Do Not track” tools are just the first in a series. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer would not be left behind as its next version, currently on the works, will include a similar feature. (Click here for the news article)

It is noted that this bandwagon reaction came after some government complaints about online advertisers being able to collect too much data about people in their quest to target ads, but would these companies admit to being ultimately fueled by business rivalry? They would rather appear intent on pleasing governments with the latter’s imaginary leash upon them than be caught keeping a close and competitive but ‘secret’ eye on their adversaries.

Nevertheless, regulation and competition are without doubt bringing the best out of the different ICT companies out there. Because of competition, their innovative reactions transcend limits. Day after day, we are presented with new offerings that truly make life more entertaining and convenient. ICT is definitely proving to be the most dynamic sector. And because of government regulation, this dynamism is kept on check.

But who really emerges as the winner?

You have a Macbook; she has a Blackberry; he has an iPad; and I get to chat with a Spanish cousin who I have not seen for decades, and yet we are able to communicate and be updated with each other’s lives, thanks to wireless broadband, Facebook and Google Translate. What is more, we can be sure that regulatory actors are just around to act once consumer harm becomes obvious. Well, kudos to strong competition and moderate regulatory frameworks, we consumers are bringing home the bacon.

*DISCLAIMER: This is a "macro" take on ICT regulation and competition. The Philippines does not even celebrate Data Privacy Day (at least not yet). 

- Phebean Belle A. Ramos, entry #10

(#10) Regulation, Competition, Consumer Protection

The deregulation policy in the 1990s de-monopolized the telecom industry that allowed entry of new players. This competition resulted in benefits to the consumers because of more choices, lower prices, and better quality of services.

The NTC is the regulatory agency that exercises jurisdiction over the supervision, adjudication and control over all telecommunications services throughout the country. Its mission is to provide an environment that ensures reliable, affordable and viable infrastructure and services in information and communications technology (ICT) accessible to all.

It is mandated to foster a healthy competitive environment in the telecommunications sector; democratize ownership of telecommunications and broadcast services. Likewise, it has the responsibility to deregulate rates when the market is highly competitive and move towards cost-based rates. It’s a good thing that aside from ensuring free competition and fair trade, regulators also focus on consumer protection.

Ma. Luisa Manalaysay

Entry # 10


Rated PG

It is ironic how strict the MTRCB is in rating movies and TV contents while the internet is replete with all sorts of sordid materials. If a movie is R-18, that would mean that those below 18 would not be allowed in the cinema. If the movie is aired on TV, Basic Instinct would probably only run for 30 minutes and the series True Blood for only one episode if censored. These measures are intended to protect the minds of the minors from contents that people may consider as inappropriate for their age.

But consider this: those below 18 are those who are probably in school. They are students who see the internet as something indispensable to their studies, as pointed out by my classmate Kate Lomoljo in her blog. These students, through the internet, have unlimited access to the same materials the MTRCB seeks to regulate. I wouldn’t be surprised if “sex” is the most commonly searched word in Google. Since people are not able to see it in their local channels, they would resort to other media. YouTube, I imagine, contains a profane amount of obscenities as well, cloaked in different titles and tags. Content neutrality would allow unscrupulous uploaders to do so until they are discovered. What makes it worse is if it is on the internet, viewers can always play them anytime, anywhere, even on loop.

Although I’m well aware that not everyone has access to the internet, I’m merely pointing out that to a large extent, the function of the MTRCB has been rendered useless, especially now since there are now shows which are tailored specifically for internet viewing. Government agencies would have difficulty screening materials online.

What was wrong with Rosanna Roces' statement again?

- Evangelista, Emmanuel Benedict C. (Blog Entry No. 9)

Image source:

The Blind Eye of Providence (Online Endorsement and Disclosure)

It used to be that people relied on experts for their opinions on say, a product or a service either for their own edification or to make intelligent choices. With the advent of all-things-online came the arm chair critic whose opinions suddenly mattered to the horde.

There is something comforting about an amateur spouting off his opinions on his blog (free service, of course) on a new restaurant or a the latest tooth whitening agent. She is, after all, more like the rest of us. This affinity and rawness gave the amateur some semblance of reality, if not integrity with his readers.

But merchants are a smart breed, and they have caught on how to communicate effectively with online media. They have even gone so far as to peddle their goods with the amateurs. Freebies or actual cash are exchanged for a space in the amateur's online territory. Whether these peddled things are actually good or rotten is a good question. The bigger issue here is conflict of interest, which is something of a hex in the legal world.

Considering how the amateur's words online have their weight in metal, any disclosure of financial ties with a merchant would most likely affect his followers' perception.

Enter the US Federal Trade Commission guidelines on the use of endorsements and testimonials for advertising. These guidelines require an endorser or say, a regular blogger, to disclose any payment he may have received from a merchant in exchange for a testimonial/product review. Failure to disclose would result in penalties and a fine up to US$11,000. The objective of the Guidelines is consumer protection, a cause championed by the FTC.

Obviously, civil rightists cry overbreadth and invasion of privacy. The FTC's Calvary is enforcement.

There are no such guidelines locally. We do not have a shortage of our own travel, makeup-up, or foodie bloggers. And we are not without these kinds of arrangements. Our resident civil rightists will of course, rally against this kind of overbreadth. Any good that the agency tasked to do this would be limited by its resources and the infiniteness that is the internet, not to mention how much of a nightmare it will be to enforce. In which case, the all seeing eye is blind. Or with a bad case of cataract.

The government is at the losing end in the fight against music piracy. There is an increasing preference towards pirated CDs or free downloads over the net. The failure of the government to legally stop the operations of file-sharing programs, exacerbated by the proliferation of stalls selling illegitimate CDs, have led to the entrenchment of music piracy in Philippine culture, as well as around the world. This losing battle has to be seen in the context of globalization. The free movement of capital and data, and the propensity towards adopting policies of economic liberalization, have contributed to the illicit distribution of goods. When coupled with constantly developing technology, it has become even more possible to illegally pass music from one person to another. With so many factors going against it, it is no wonder that some states have adopted policies of cutting down enforcement and becoming more lenient towards piracy.

In China, the government has taken a more liberal approach and basically allowed for a kind of “legitimate piracy”. Last February 2006, the largest Chinese legitimate music download website,, was launched.[1] Initially, it sold tracks at cheap prices. In 2009, however, it began to offer Chinese internet users free MP3 music downloads. It manages to continue its operation through advertisements and the help of Google (although its partial withdrawal from China will have eventual ramifications). Record companies have sued in an attempt to preclude their continued operations. So far, however, the Chinese court has ruled in favor of[2]

The leniency of internet regulation in China has potential effects on our own government’s regulatory trends. Most of us Filipinos can take cognizance of the fact that a number of pirated CDs in the Philippines come from China (I say this with no intent of being discriminatory). It would seem, therefore, that a particular government may choose two routes in regulating IT. It can follow the Philippines and continue to have strong campaigns against music piracy. Or, it can do a China, be more lenient, and join the bandwagon.

I personally do not know which is better. Although I think that government regulation of the internet is becoming more and more necessary, I also think that liberalizing the transfer of data has its positive benefits. After all, the best things in life are free, right? But to what extent? That question I leave to the government.


[2] The Economist, Dec. 4th-10th 2010, page 71.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Technology regulation spurred by a mix of science and politics*

“Without technology innovators, would regulators have anything to do?” The author of the article* then proceeded to write about the skeptical attitude of regulators towards technological advances, saying that it “wouldn’t be surprising or even unwelcome if the skepticism was always based on scientific inquiry, but sometimes the barriers are erected by politics or a “just-say-no” agenda rooted in cultural and social opposition.” The author then cited specific examples of how governmental regulatory agencies forbid the introduction to the market of certain genetically modified products despite the absence of studies to support the notion that they are harmful. A farmer quoted in the article even theorized that there’s a grand scheme involved in all the prohibition regulations, that the organic farmers are trying utilize anti-biotech politics to put a crimp in the production of genetically enhanced food everywhere to ease them out of the market, instead of relying on good old-fashioned competition. The article ended on this note – “There is a huge difference between technology regulation driven by science and that provoked by political causes. Public acceptance of biotech and nanotech products may depend on policymakers and journalists being able to tell the difference.”

In imposing regulations, authorities should always have in mind public welfare. Will this measure bring more good than harm to the public? In the case espoused by the farmer, regulation made the food products more costly (we all know that organically grown products cost as much as 3 times the commercially produced products), and this is not even because of the need to protect people from harmful elements in the GMO (which does not exist according to the study) but from the fear of technology. A negative attitude is understandable since it’s always better to be safe than sorry. But if there is proof that such fear is misplaced, then there’s no more reason to enact such regulations. It will just kill competition and drive prices up. And in a third world country like us where a significant portion of the population is living in poverty, such proper regulation has a deep impact.

*for the full text, visit

Katrina May Sy, 10th Blog Entry