November 2012

Crowdsourcing: The Story of the Drafting of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom

Update: The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom (MCPIF) has been refiled for the 16th Congress.
PHNetDems statement when Senator Santiago filed the MCPIF in the Senate as Senate Bill No. 53
Statement of PHNetDems when Representative Kimi Cojuangco filed the MCPIF in the House of Representatives as House Bill 1086.

SBN3327 Screencap

This is the story of how six ordinary, tech- and internet-savvy citizens, over three hundred online onlookers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Docs, and a number of their politically-connected friends brought the dream of a Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom to the august halls of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines, and found in Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago a champion for civil and political rights in cyberspace.

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The Papacy or else!

“Your Eminence, you’re looking good.” — US President George W. Bush to Pope Benedict XVI who should have been addressed, “Your Holiness”.

Filipino Catholics are celebrating  the elevation of Manila Archbishop Antonio Luis Tagle to cardinal.  He is now a prince of the Catholic Church, a rather pompous title for a truly humble and unassuming servant of the Lord. 

Cardinal Tagle is what the native clergy needs at the moment. He is a voice of humility and moderation in an organization that has turned strident and full of itself.

In a speech before he was made cardinal, Tagle called on the local church to stop behaving like a “triumphalistic, know-it-all type of institution.” He encouraged his fellow clerics to return to being ”a simpler witness to Jesus, meek and humble of heart.” Amen to that.

As bishop of Cavite, Tagle preferred to do his pastoral rounds unaccompanied by aides and using public transportation or his bike. A man of the people, he is aware of the temptations that go along with being a prince of the church.

    “If I am not cautious, I might just believe it, and I might start demanding your offerings – of the best food, the best wine, money, cars, houses, adulation, submission! After all, I am God – hah! I might take so much delight in my stature and its benefits that I might end up being callous to the needs of the poor and the earth.”

Tagle is  not a political player, has no interest in becoming one, unlike some of his colleagues who used their position and power to support certain politicians. I will not go as far as saying that some bishops gave political support in exchange for SUVs and cash gifts but I would ask why brand new SUVs and cash were vital and necessary to the job of spreading God’s word and administering to the spiritual needs of His flock. 

Farthermore, Tagle knows his place in God’s scheme of things. 

    “I am disturbed when some people who do not even know me personally conclude that my being a bishop automatically makes me closer to God than they could ever be. My words are God’s words! My desires are God’s desires! My anger is God’s anger! My actions are God’s actions!” 

Those qualities, in addition to brilliance and wisdom, makes Archbishop Antonio Luis Cardinal Tagle the perfect successor to lead one of the most powerful and richest organizations in God’s creation.

In the near future, Europeans will no longer dominate the Catholic Church. There are more and more non-European cardinals who can elect Popes. We are happy that a Filipino will be among those who will choose Benedict’s successor. But should we content with being a mere vote? 

We have had a vote since Archbishop Rufino Cardinal Santos was made cardinal generations ago. How many cardinals have we had since? Six, seven? What we want, no, what we demand, is the papacy. Our time has come and we have a perfect man for the job.

We are the largest Catholic country in Asia. We are the only remaining Catholic country that has not gone against Church teaching on artificial contraception, divorce, and same-sex marriage. Our churches are filled on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and our devotion to saints remains as fervent as ever. 

Most important of all, since the Church is ultimately an organization in the material world – it is a worldly organization despite its stated purpose of being primarily concerned with the soul – it cannot ignore the fact that the Philippine Catholic Church is one of the biggest contributors to the Vatican’s coffers.

The contributions do not only come from Filipinos in the Philippines. How many churches in the western world will close down if not for our OFWs’ continued patronage?  The Church might have to retrench many of its officials and sell many of its valuable real estate and priceless treasures if not for the weekly donations from ordinary Filipinos here and abroad. And we’ve not even looked at the bequests of rich Filipinos. 

We are good for the Church. The Church will be hard put if we were to turn away like those overly secularized cash-strapped westerners. We are a power in the Church. We can and must exercise that power. For the good of the Church, of course.

Consequently, the Filipino Catholic’s message, no, irrevocable demand, to the college of cardinals must be: Archbishop Antonio Luis Cardinal Tagle becomes the next Pope or else!

Building Capacities with Armi Millare of Up Dharma Down

Reposted with permission from our friends at The Scenester an online fanzine that has been covering the local music scene since the mid-90s.

Image courtesy of Chico Limjap at Chicolimjap.com

ca·pac·i·ty /kəˈpasitē/ n. pl. ca·pac·i·ties

1. The ability to receive, hold, or absorb. 2. The maximum amount that can be contained. 3. a. Ability to perform or produce; capability. b. The maximum or optimum amount that can be produced. 4. The power to learn or retain knowledge; mental ability. 5. Innate potential for growth, development, or accomplishment; faculty. 6. The quality of being suitable for or receptive to specified treatment. 7. The position in which one functions; role.

To these definitions, we can now add: title of the soon to be released and much anticipated third album of Up Dharma Down under Terno Recordings.

The Scenester’s chief contributor, Kristo Babbler recently “sat down” with Armi Millare, keyboards and lead vocals for Up Dharma Down to take stock of the band’s evolution to date, their creative process in the lead up to their third outing, and Armi’s personal journey all throughout. A rather revealing exchange ensued.

Kristo Babbler (KB): Judging from Turn it Well (see video below), Capacities sounds like a very different album from Bipolar or Fragmented. I sense a more upbeat feeling from it, more life affirming, is that true of the rest of the album? And if so, was that by design, or did it just evolve that way over a period of time?

Armi Millare (AM): It’s part of our evolution as music-makers. I think we’ve consciously tried to re-interpret some things in a different way. Not because the theme is wrist-cuttingly sad, doesn’t mean it can’t be upbeat. There are ways around expression that we can toy with. I used to have the impression that anger was expressed with a lot of high register singing, but there is pent up anger, there are passive aggressive episodes and there are hopeful moments that don’t necessarily have to reflect into a fast beat.

KB: It’s been four years since you released Bipolar. Many of your followers are actually second and even third generation ones. Are you concerned that with this third album, your followers might not “get it”? Or are you fairly confident having road-tested the first track?

AM: We also wanted to explore new heights, always trying to do something new. We perform these songs at least three times a week and on a technical aspect, and so we want to keep ourselves inspired by creating new things (that) we haven’t done before. I don’t think that’s a crime. This is all we’ve got, so (we) might as well give it our best shot; might as well enjoy it. You can’t please everyone. And that’s been our mantra all these years. I think the reason why we stuck together was mainly because of that.

I realize that most people forget that even if we have not released a record in 4 years, we were relentlessly gigging since 2004 and a little before that. We were living the life of a performing band that hardly took any breaks because that’s how we want to spell out our commitment. In those 4 years before the actual CD was pressed, we have released tracks that kept us going. Most of them are only being heard now by a wider audience. Capacities has become a compilation of those 4 years and I would like to make sure that those singles do not go to waste when the album had always been on our minds soon after Bipolar was released.

We truly appreciate our listeners and we show that by interacting with them a lot. We feel grateful for their support, but I think the reason why they like the music is exactly because we don’t try too hard to please them. We’re pleased with our work, we’re mighty proud of it, because we wrote them from experience and there’s not one bit of a half-truth in this record. I bet all my chips on this one. Because in the next life, I’m going to be an anthropologist!

KB: There was a rumoured collaboration with Paul Buchanan of the Blue Nile, the Scottish band from Glasgow that UDD has been compared to. Did that actually materialise?

Read the rest of the interview here.

On fair play and the right of reply

“The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent. That’s power.” – Malcolm X

I’ll go against popular sentiment and support Rep. Rodolfo Antonino’s proposal to include the right of reply in the Freedom of Information Bill, not only because it challenges media on a right it considers sacrosanct –  the exercise of sole and absolute control over what and who will get how much printed space, airtime, or bandwidth – but, more importantly, because it guarantees fair play. 

The argument of media against the right of reply is framed as a struggle between freedom of speech and oppression. 

    “Right of Reply is repugnant to any true democracy’s notion of independent media. A press that can be dictated upon to dedicate time and space to anybody who cries foul is as good as censored. It is not just that the finiteness of time and space makes equal time and equal space an impossibility in print, on air, or even online. More to the point, any attempt to legislate responsibility and fairness in news and commentary can only end up hijacking journalists of their editorial prerogatives. It will force editors to surrender to law the use of their own human judgment, and yes, their own scruples, their own vulnerable sense of ethics, to decide what is fit to print or air. Telling media what it must print will have the same result as telling it what it must not: It will have the effect of prior restraint, and of denigrating our Bill of Rights. Right of Reply, everywhere it has been experimented with and failed, is not manifest in fair reporting but in dictated tyranny, on a daily basis,” said a recent editorial in this website. (Interaksyon.com)

As an opinion columnist, the framing of the argument works fine for me. Freedom of speech gives me the editorial prerogative of writing on any issue. I can attack anybody and I am not obligated to surrender any of my column space to a response because to be legally obliged to give up some of my finite space would, in effect, be telling me what I can or cannot write. 

I have the Bill of Rights to back me up. I can build or destroy as I wish. I have that power and I’m only at the bottom of the media pyramid. Above me are the editors and publishers and above them, at the top of the pyramid, are the owners. They control the flow of information and opinion, they have the last word on what to disseminate or suppress. 

Media prefers to call the arbitrary power to decide what information and opinion to disseminate or suppress editorial prerogative but I call it censorship. Censorship or editorial prerogative gives owners of the largest news organizations immense power. They can set the terms and scope of the national debate because the rest of media, from second-tier outlets to hao-siao operations all the way down to blogs and tweets, feeds on their headlines and editorials. 

Does the marketplace of ideas function more efficiently under a self-regulating media oligopoly than a system of laws and regulations that mandates fairness? Is it healthy for democracy to have a one-sided conversation?

Gagging speech is a crude form of censorship. The more sophisticated way is to allow everyone to speak but only a selected few to be heard. That’s what media does when it exercises editorial prerogative and denies a victim the opportunity to air his side. It mocks the Bill of Rights and it undermines the principle of fair play.

Fair play is as vital to democracy as free speech. Fairness is what Rep. Antonino’s right of reply amendment is all about. It addresses the question why should a victim of shoddy reporting or a demolition job be denied the right to rebut the information or allegation that could damage his reputation and good name? Why should a victim have to look for another forum to air his side? Why can’t he have the right to defend himself in the same forum where he was maligned?

I am not arguing for the right of reply as a cover for what closet authoritarians call responsible journalism.  We all know that the meaning of responsible journalism is subjective – if you agree with the story then it’s fair and balanced and if you disagree then it’s biased and unfair – so I won’t cite numerous reports and editorials that I find irresponsible. Besides, I don’t believe a law mandating responsible journalism will work because responsibility cannot be legislated. But fairness can be. 

I support the right of reply because every victim should be given the right to air his side in the same forum where he was singled out. Rep. Antonino’s right of reply amendment gives media’s victims the wherewithal to defend their reputation and good name. 

    “Opportunity to Reply – Any person natural or juridical who came to be involved directly or indirectly in the issue publicly obtained (meaning obtained under FOI) must be given the opportunity to account for, explain, manifest or throw light upon the issue concerned in the following manner” – give equal space or time for a reply in the same printed space, on-air segment or online post where the information appeared, not later than three days after its printing, airing, or posting. 

The right of reply amendment is not an attempt to “hijack the editorial prerogatives” of journalists nor does it attack their  “vulnerable sense of ethics”. It is not a prior restraint ruse or a denigration of the Bill of Rights. It is victim-oriented legislation, it mandates fairness, it levels the playing field for the victim, it is not legislated oppression. 

How can giving a victim the right of reply be tantamount to the suppression of freedom of speech? How can the “finiteness of time and space” be cited as legitimate grounds to deny a victim the opportunity to defend his reputation and good name? 

Media cannot tell a person who feels maligned, “We would love to have you respond but we don’t have the time and space to carry your rebuttal. Pasensiya na lang, poh.” 

Time and space limitations are not valid grounds for evading accountability. If media wants to call Rep. Antonino’s amendment legislated fairness then so be it. Because if media will not play fair then it must be made to play fair. And that’s only fair. 

My only criticism of Rep. Antonino’s amendment is it grants the right of reply only to those affected by the FOI Bill. There are many victims of shoddy reporting and demolition jobs who have nothing to do with government and they will continue to have no recourse. But we can leave consideration of a stand-alone right of reply bill for a later time. 

For now, suffice it to say that Rep. Antonino’s amendment is about fair play. It is not against the freedom of speech because granting victims the right of reply fosters rather than stifles freedom of speech. It levels the playing field, it allows victims to be heard as loudly as those who own the means to be heard far and wide.

Let’s have freedom of information and the right of reply. Both or nothing. Democracy cannot thrive with one and not the other.

Is Aquino Just A Popular Version of Arroyo?

In an excellent piece for the Guardian newspaper, Slavoj Žižek makes reference to the work of philosopher Jean-Claude Milner who he says

proposed the notion of the “stabilising class”: not the old ruling class, but all who are committed to the stability and continuity of the existing social, economic and political order – the class of those who, even when they call for a change, do so to ensure that nothing really will change (emphasis mine).

Žižek asserts that the key to electoral success in 2012 was in a party’s ability to win over this class, which is what President Obama did by pitting his stable leadership against the radical changes proposed by the “Republican market and religious fundamentalists”.  Even now, Mitt Romney proves just how disconnected he is when he characterised as providing “gifts” to minorities the policies that Obama took to the electorate.  As for President Obama’s first term, Žižek goes on to say that

(m)any disappointed by his presidency held against him precisely the fact that the core of his much-publicised “hope” proved to be that the system can survive with modest changes (emphasis mine).

The same can be said of President Noynoy Aquino’s election in 2010. As the “hope and change” candidate of that electoral cycle, the people that elected him were merely seeking to restore the Philippines to the state his mother had left it in back in 1992. The purpose of his candidacy was to pull the country back from the brink of destruction and restore dignity and faith in the political system.

The very thesis of Corazon Aquino’s presidency was to prove that the pre-Martial Law, landed gentry could govern with self-restraint. For as long as the ruling class could manage to do so, the system of governance that she put in place would be able to accommodate the demands of the masses. For as long as there remained some modicum of decency (what Filipinos call delicadeza) from elites, any radical overhaul of the system could be avoided.

This is perhaps why President Aquino has so far shied away from pursuing any structural change in his campaign against corruption. This could be why he put off proposing any new revenue measures like the indexation of sin taxes until now. It could also be why despite promising to support reproductive health reforms he initially backed away from supporting it once in office. And it could also be why he signed into law the anti-cybercrime bill that many have derided for restricting freedom of expression, and why he is against tinkering with the constitution.

Instead of introducing change through these measures, Mr Aquino’s administration cranked up the programs and policies pursued by his predecessor, namely the conditional cash transfers program, universal kindergarten education, PhilHealth expansion, the anti-tax cheat program called RATE, business process outsourcing and tourism promotion and the euphemistic “fiscal consolidation” program. These were all begun by Mrs Arroyo whose popularity never seemed to benefit from them.

So, to mimic Žižek who rhetorically asked whether Obama was just “Bush with a human face”, can we also pose the question, “Is PNoy simply a popular version of PGMA?”

In the case of Obama, Žižek gives us reason to disagree with the assertion that he is merely Bush with a human face in that

(a)lthough his healthcare reforms were mired in so many compromises they amounted to almost nothing, the debate triggered was of huge importance. A great art of politics is to insist on a particular demand that, while thoroughly realist, feasible and legitimate, disturbs the core of the hegemonic ideology. The healthcare reforms were a step in this direction – how else to explain the panic and fury they triggered in the Republican camp?

In a previous post on this topic, I likened the debate America was having on healthcare with the one the Philippines is currently engaged in with respect to the reproductive health reform measure in Congress. Both touch on a nerve that is fundamental to the psyche of each nation with respect to the choice being considered and challenge each country’s default position with regard to the role of the state in each case.

Unlike Obama however who chose the issue of healthcare as the transformative one that would define his first term in office, despite the fact that the budget and economy were looming large as potential roadblocks to his re-election, President Aquino hasn’t really staked his presidency on any signature issue, save for impeaching Mr Corona and jailing Mrs Arroyo.

In the case of Mr Aquino, the victories over the former chief justice and ex-president respectively start to ring hollow among his supporters who don’t necessarily see the anti-corruption campaign continuing in the future under Mr Aquino’s likely successors. For them, a set of insurance policies to mitigate against any potential backsliding is required but does not seem to be forthcoming from Mr Aquino’s current leadership (or lack thereof) when it comes to the Freedom of Information bill and other similar measures.

As they see the potential dominance of the Binays, Estradas and Pacquiaos in our national political landscape for years and years to come, many are also beginning to call for the fulfilment of the anti-dynasty provisions in the constitution. Again, it does not seem as though the president will be leading on this issue. For the “will of the people” to be fulfilled, no restriction ought to be placed on their choices, he would probably say.

That so called choice presupposes however that people are indeed free to decide on their own. The framers of our present constitution perhaps knew intuitively that for this to be so, people would need to have a certain level of economic freedom and independence. Until such was achieved, they must have felt certain restrictions needed to be in place. What Milner describes as the stabilising force is nothing but a healthy middle class.

Unlike President Obama who broke with economic orthodoxy by bailing out the auto-industry and giving subsidies to clean tech companies in the hope of saving and creating jobs with living wages, President Aquino and his team feel no need to intervene in the appreciation of the peso to support our manufacturing base which is needed to grow the middle class.

For Mr Aquino, the fact that he can demonstrate the ability of the ruling class to govern with a level of integrity ought to be enough to ensure that things never go back to the way they were under Mrs Arroyo. For his fellow dynasts who supported his candidacy and form part of his ruling coalition, however, the fact that Mr Aquino thinks this way guarantees that things will indeed go back to “business as usual” when they get their turn in the driver’s seat.

Lay off Senator Sotto!

“If common sense, intelligence, caution, all the straightarrow stuff ever fails, there is always bullshit to fall back on.” – Ernest Stickley Jr.

I’m disappointed with the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy.  She doesn’t even know Senator Vicente Sotto III and yet she called him a thief and a distorter of words. 

    “This is a clear case of plagiarism…I urge that he apologize for his unethical, unsanctioned theft of Robert Kennedy’s intellectual property,” she said. “In addition, I am particularly offended to see a speech my father gave in support of global human rights distorted by Senator Sotto as an argument against the right to contraception.” 

Ms. Kennedy, Senator Vicente Sotto III is not like that. He will never intentionally steal or distort anyone’s words.  Go ask Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile if you don’t want to take my word for it. Senator Enrile is an unimpeachable character witness. Ask any Filipino who has not read his authorized biography.
 
I assume you received a copy of Senator Sotto’s privilege speech. You must pay close attention to his version of the truth as he calls it.

    “I did not even know whose it was except that it came from the True Love Waits Foundation who espouses chastity and teaches all over the country.  He’s an American. When he gave me that line, I translated and delivered the message in Filipino because we found it a fitting cap to what I was fighting for so Mr President I did not steal it or claim that it was mine. The worst thing you can say is I copied it from the text of a friend. I didn’t know who it came from but it was a nice inspirational line…But Mr President copying or imitation is the highest form of flattery but if it upsets the Kennedy family then I’m sorry but that is not the intention that we have when we used it.”

On second thought, maybe getting too close  to Senator Sotto’ s syntax is not such a good idea. It could be contagious.

At any rate, the good senator believes you should have been highly flattered not highly upset by his copying, because copying is the highest form of flattery and it should be appreciated even if the copycat confesses he did not know he was copying. That’s the essence of Sotto’s heart-felt apology to you.

As to Sotto’s distortion, isn’t it obvious that he never read your father’s Day of Affirmation speech? Why else would he not see the irony of turning your father’s call for “the enlargement of liberty for individual human beings” into a rallying cry to curtail the liberty of female human beings?

You see it’s not uncommon and it’s certainly no indiction of ill intent when ignorant people unwittingly take someone else’s words out of context. It happens too often to too many people, specially to politicians with a penchant for including in their speeches inspirational text messages from preachers who espouse chastity.

Just the other day a friend quoted a biblical verse to a homosexual he was trying to convert to heterosexuality. He told the homosexual, “Leviticus 20:13 says ‘If a man practices homosexuality, having sex with another man as with a woman, both men have committed a detestable act. They must both be put to death, for they are guilty of a capital offense’”. He thought the gay man clearly understood what Leviticus said but a few days later he received a Facebook message from his would-be convert. It was a picture of two naked men in bed happily smoking a marijuana cigarette. The picture was captioned – “If a man practices homosexuality, he should be stoned – Leviticus 20:13.” See what I mean? 

So Ms. Kennedy please lay-off Senator Sotto. He knows not whereof he speaks. Neither does he know where he belongs. 

The Philippines in the Asian Century

This was President Benigno S. Aquino III’s remarks at the Asia Society in Sydney on the 25th of October 2012. He talked about the Philippines being a bright spot in the global economy and the reforms his government has enacted to gain investor confidence and improve social equity.

After delivering an eight minute speech, PNoy took questions from the audience.

What was missing from the discussion was an explanation as to why despite the country being one of only a handful in the region that has exhibited robust growth in the first semester of this year has foreign direct investment not returned even when as the president remarked so many attempts at good governance have been made. Instead, it is the stock market that has surged as “hot money” has flowed in helping to drive up the value of Philippine stocks and with it the peso. This in turn has driven down the competitiveness of our exports be they in manufacturing, mining, agriculture or services.

What is needed from the president at this point is a vision for the Philippines, a strategy that would position it well in this, the Asian century, with the rise of China, India and Indonesia. What role will the country play in this century? Will it join these other nations in lifting millions out of poverty? Will it see a rapidly growing middle class earning between $10 and $20 a day (these being the poverty threshold in Brazil and Italy, respectively)?

The president spoke of his mining policy recalibration, at a time when commodity prices globally are declining from their peak prior to the Global Financial Crisis, with the rebalancing of China’s economy driving demand for commodities down, and with global supply about to catch-up with global demand. In Australia the pipeline of investments amounting to around $350 billion has now been cast into doubt as evidenced by BHP Billiton’s suspension in August of projects worth $30 billion in Western and South Australia. In addition, the Mining Resource Rent Tax expected to generate billions for the Federal government raised nothing during the first quarter of its operation due to weaker mining profits.

Now they say, the next big boom will come in agriculture and services as the Asian middle class switches its diet from grains to meat, requiring more agricultural output to supply livestock feed, and as they seek better quality education and travel experiences abroad. As the West deals with its ageing population and demands skilled workers to fill the seats of retiring baby boomers in the next few years, how will the country cope with this race for talent?

Indeed, there are many important questions that need to be considered. The country needs a strategist-in-chief who will demonstrate leadership by tackling these broader long-range issues. Yes, we need honest government, but more than that, we need to know our strategic direction so that our government can navigate through the treacherous terrain our nation faces. There are many things going in our favour: proximity to the world’s fastest growing markets, a large, literate and highly skilled population, and now a government that wants to do things above board.

We need to now harness that latent potential and drive the country forward.

Santiago Files Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, principal sponsor of SBN 3327

(Update 14 Nov 2012: SBN 3327 official PDF from Senate official website embedded below.)

Constitutional rights shall not be diluted in the Information Age.

This is the guarantee sought to be galvanized by Senate Bill 3327, filed on November 12, 2012, by the eminent constitutionalist and international law expert Senator Miriam-Defensor Santiago. In what is a first in Philippine legislative history, the provisions of the bill authored by Senator Santiago draw directly upon the suggestions of Filipino netizens solicited through online “crowdsourcing”. The proposed measure seeks to address not only the protection of  but also the establishment of the rights of Internet users in the Philippines. Also, guided by the expert knowledge of the diverse set of IT and legal specialists who advised on the bill, SBN 3327 seeks to establish a sensible, fact-oriented and balanced environment that defends Filipinos against against cybercrimes and cyberattacks.

Senate Bill 3327 is titled, appropriately enough, “An Act Establishing a Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, Cybercrime Prevention and Law Enforcement, Cyberdefense and National Cybersecurity.” Also known as the MCPIF to the netizens whose views helped shape the Bill, the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom is anchored on:

a. Rights
The MCPIF protects the civil and political rights of Filipinos, recognizing and asserting our guaranteed constitutional rights in cyberspace. Economic rights and consumer rights, especially as affected by the use of the Internet and information and communications technology (ICT), are also promoted and upheld.

b. Governance
The MCPIF promotes ICT in governance, translating into an empowered citizenry, a more efficient and responsive government, and more effective use and distribution of resources.

c. Development
The MCPIF provides government agencies with the mandate and the means to harness ICT for national development, thus promoting Philippine economic growth and ensuring Filipinos remain competitive in the information age.

d. Security
The MCPIF prepares Philippine law enforcement agencies and the armed forces for the current and emerging security challenges of the information age. It equips law enforcement with the capability to prevent, detect, and respond to cybercrime. With bolstered national defense and intelligence capabilities made possible through the MCPIF, the Philippines will be able to protect its critical infrastructure, reducing its vulnerability to attacks by cyber-terrorists and rogue or enemy states.

SBN 3327 has been referred to the Committee on Science and Technology for deliberations. It is expected that in the same spirit that animated the crafting of the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, legislative deliberations will be enhanced by the active participation of the citizens online, and the other ICT stakeholders. The Internet has facilitated an unexpected next step in participatory democracy, and the forthcoming legislative process will harness that power.

SBN 3327 – An Act Establishing a Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, Cybercrime Prevention and Law Enforcement, and Cyberdefense and National Cybersecurity

[scribd id=113187011 key=key-yeze4eq6waidnxz1mpa mode=scroll]

(Photo credit: Senate official website, http://www.senate.gov.ph/)

(PDF credit: Senate official website, http://www.senate.gov.ph/)

PNoy, an Epochal President

An article from The New York Times titled “Now, a Chance to catch up to His Epochal Vision” (7 November 2012) caught my attention. Written by Jodi Kantor, the essay depicts US President Barack Obama’s quest for history, as seen from his series of private meetings with distinguished presidential historians.

Wrote Kantor: “The President was coolly eyeing American history in order to carve his own grand place in it.” Now that he has been re-elected, Obama, in the words of Robert Caro, one of the historians who attended the meetings, “has only one thing to run for: a place in history.”

Obama’s first term has been tumultuous. He could not push his reform agenda decisively because of the belligerence of reactionary ideologues in Congress, in the media, and at the grassroots, specifically the Tea Party. Hence, even the best of his interventions—universal health care, fiscal stimulus, and budget reform—had to be diluted.

Said Kantor: “Now Mr. Obama, a specialist in long shots, faces what may be the climactic challenge of his political career: a second chance to deliver the renewal he still promises, but without a clear mandate, a healthy economy or willing Republican partners.”

Kantor’s insightful essay about Obama’s eye for history has led me to ask whether our own PNoy also has that Obama vision.

Perhaps, PNoy’s perspective regarding the long run and his place in history is secondary. The question then is: Will PNoy, independent of his wish, become an epochal president? Will he secure a niche as one of the few great Philippine presidents?

The answer is yes. Of course, this will depend on what he will be doing for the rest of his term.

History is on his side. He is the son of a most-loved Cory, less popular then than sister Kris. He was an underestimated senator who had no presidential ambition. Yet he was swept to the presidency in the wake of his mom’s death, and he became the symbol of the good.

In the first half of his presidency, he continues to do good, even though his daang matuwid can be bumpy. Making Gloria Arroyo and her minions like Renato Corona accountable, reducing corruption, running after tax evaders and improving tax revenue collection, and pushing for hard legislative reforms not only satisfy short-term objectives but also solidify institutions for the long term.

Yet a much better future has to be secured. We wish to avoid what happened in our modern history—a good presidency like Cory Aquino’s was not sustained. What followed was a series of bad presidents, reaching a nadir during the term of Arroyo.

The possibility of the PNoy presidency being replaced by a less than desirable one is real. Imagine if the elections were held tomorrow. Hands down, Jejomar Binay wins. Binay professes closeness to PNoy and his family, but his coterie is made up of the forces of Gloria and Erap. This will no longer be daang matuwid.

Instead of extending daang matuwid, Binay will build grand expensive boulevards with lots of zigzags and U-turns. At best, we can expect a regime that will ignite short-run growth but characterized by corruption and rent seeking.

It’s common to hear the quip of tainted politicians, contractors, and policemen who are compelled to behave well under daang matuwid: “It’s a matter of time—happy days will be here again.”

Since we want PNoy to become an epochal president, we want him to be strategic. We want to ensure that the gains from his administration will endure beyond his presidency. That Kim Henares’s reforms in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Butch Abad’s open government program will remain in place, regardless of who succeeds PNoy.

In this light, it is necessary, for instance, for the present Congress to pass the Freedom of Information bill. True, many government entities have become transparent under the PNoy administration. But such practice can be reversed by a future administration that prefers being opaque. Legislating freedom of information will preserve PNoy’s legacy of transparency.

Other reforms cry out to be done. With certainty though requiring a lot of vigilance, the sin tax reform will be passed. But time seems to be running out for other important measures.

What is needed is an extra push from PNoy and his allies. After all, much political capital has been spent in advancing freedom of information, reproductive health, and the rationalization of fiscal incentives.

Some might argue that the aforementioned measures can be re-introduced in the next Congress. Tactically, this is unsound. Because we want to be strategic, these reforms have to be passed at the soonest. We avoid overloading the reform agenda for the second half of PNoy’s presidency by having some of the reforms passed now.

The issues that the PNoy administration will grapple with for the second half of its term are tough. The overvaluation of the Philippine peso can only be stemmed through bold actions, requiring the collective effort of the Executive and the central bank. An energy crisis is looming, amid the increasing demand for power as economic activities grow. The intervention in the power sector requires political skills. And undoubtedly, building a reform coalition before the 2016 elections will preoccupy PNoy.

Unlike Obama who faces severe political constraints, PNoy enjoys favorable conditions to promote the hard reforms. PNoy is very popular and has the cooperation Congress. He also benefits from the bullish investors’ sentiments amid the administration’s solid economic performance.

To borrow Kantor’s words but used in a different context, “the tick of hours or days” in passing reforms like the sin tax, freedom of information, and reproductive health contributes to “the sweep of years” that will make PNoy an epochal President.