Tuesday, September 6, 2011

e-Blotter: The Demise of the Hardbound

The most abused hardbound in the history of hardbounds finally met its demise. NCRPO is boasting of its plans to implement an electronic blotter system (e-blotter) in Metro Manila in the coming days. Outgoing PNP Director General Bacalzo considers the modernization of crime information reporting as his legacy. The system, if successful in Metro Manila, will be replicated in all police stations nationwide.

Contrary from what is self-proclaimed, the e-blotter is not an entirely novel creature in our shores. The Cebu Police has been implementing it since 2007, using their own hardware and software and paying for their own network fees in order to deliver better services to the public. I guess what makes Bacalzo’s e-blotter different is that the software of the new system will be transmitted to Camp Crame where ‘crime experts’ can map out the crimes all over Metro Manila in order to strategize how to curb them. Smooth.

But what are the implications of dumping the good ol blotter hardbound for the wired system? PNP heads boast that the system, aside from creating the abovementioned direct link to Crame, will also automatically input any information to the statistics template. So now, we won’t have conflicting carnapping figures in Quezon City, yes? Another benefit of going paperless is that it is tamper-proof. How they were able to do that was not detailed by the team of police IT experts who created the system. So I guess, there won’t be any need for outsourcing the maintenance to an external IT solutions provider (ahem… Stradcom…ahem) which usually creates the problem. Also, there might be a possibility that the system, if truly tamper-proof, can acquire a greater value as better proofs of evidence than what they are currently treated now in the legal criminal procedure. The Courts will probably accord it more evidentiary value now if accomplished according to the Rules on Electronic Evidence.

But like any other attempt at modernization, the system can be a double-edged sword. There are no guidelines as to how it will deal with the freedom of information issues. Right now, crime beat reporters go directly to the desk of the police station and peer over the very ubiquitous police blotter. But if the system gets implemented, do the reporters need a subpoena in order to do their reporting? While the freedom of information law is still non-existent in this country, we still see the value of letting the media have quick and direct access to the traditional blotter in order to inform the public of criminals on the loose and whatelse. Another issue would lie in the effectivity and implementation. Are the police officers manning the desks equipped to handle technology? Granted that the biggest advantage of the system lies in the database management and not in the quality of data (as theoretically, the inputs will contain the same data), how will this database management help in the facility to access data will still depend on the ability of the direct users to squeeze out its best potential. Another argument will come from the system’s promise of a tamper-proof secured database. Considering the particularly vulnerable state of government websites in this country, a mere assurance will not do. The blotter system, traditional or not, treats any complaint as a potential crime. The dangers of relying on a system which is vulnerable to external attacks (like more capable and technologically adept criminals) are endless and unimaginable.

ENTRY # 12.

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