May 2013


Lately, the President has vetoed two bills filled during the 15th Congress. They are the Centenarians Bill and the Internally Displaced Persons bill. The former— because the palace argued (and rightly so!) that a 75% discount without any benefit to business was grossly unfair. The latter, hailed as an important piece of legislation that no less than the United Nations lauds its passage.


The President has argued had constitutional flaws in the Internally Displaced Persons bill that gave the Commission on Human Rights more power than it should have. Of course, Congress could fix this by going into session and with two-thirds voting separately make it into law. Congress of course isn’t in session, since we just had an election. So yes, no chance to fix the Internally Displaced Persons bill.

Another bill also opposed by the President and his men— the establishment of the Department of Information and Communications Technology on austerity grounds. That bill passed before the Senate and the House never made it to the President’s desk for a proper veto. Instead it has languished in the netherworld. A bill that made it through both houses of Congress, a bill that spent gazillions of hours and winds up as dead before it was even born.

Also two laws passed during the 15th Congress have pending questions before the Supreme Court. The unconstitutionality of both the Cybercrime Prevention Act and the Reproductive Health Law are being challenged. The former, by more than 15 petitions challenging 29 provisions of the law to be unconstitutional, which really means the law, if ever the Supreme Court strikes down all 29 means, what else is left other than words strung together to form some cohesive, but ultimately worthless sentences. On the latter, challenged before the Supreme Court by hardline conservatives led by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines who seemingly forgot to learn some reading, and some comprehension in school.

My point in bringing all this up that the 15th Congress doesn’t seem to have a good track record of bringing out decent bills. We really can’t blame coordination between the palace and the Congress. For one thing, I happen to like the fact that the President vetoes bills he thinks shouldn’t become the law of the land. How I wished he did this for the idiotic Cybercrime Prevention Act, but that’s what we have the Supreme Court for, and why we live in a democracy. It is nice to know that no one is sleeping in the Palace. It is also nice to know that Congress, while being a close ally of this President, isn’t merely a rubber stamp Congress. That they do write laws. Sometimes laws that may not sit well with the administration.

It is embarrassing that legislation like the Centenarians Bill gets passed– an extremely populist bill by the way it gives a 75% discount, and let businesses shoulder the cost that no one seem to have bothered to oppose it. Or maybe it just wasn’t so newsworthy that no one knew about it. Why wasn’t there a hardline opposition to it during deliberations. Surely, Congress would have asked the executive for some opinion? Right?

And what about the Department of Information and Communications Technology? At a time when the nation needs better policy on ICT, and to implement that roadmap it goes away for budgetary reasons. On the surface, it seem like a fair way to assess it. We do have a nation that can hardly afford anything. Why wasn’t there a greater debate on the matter? If the bill wasn’t ready why did it get passed?

I think the problem here is the leadership in both houses of Congress. It has to be smarter than this. If a bill like the Internally Displaced Persons bill is highly important— why isn’t the Congress fighting tooth and nail to get it passed? Again, they would have known when this bill would find itself on the President’s desk. So why did it fail? What then does this speak to us about the current leadership in Congress? What does this mean, moving forward? Is it really an independent body? Where is the fire in the belly, is all I am asking, especially in the Senate. Maybe old hats need to take it easy and give the younger boys and girls a seat at the table.

Why the DOJ’s Cybercrime initiative is a failed project

The Philippine Department of Justice wants to revive the Cybercrime Law. The head of the Department of Justice’s Cybercrime office, Geronimo Sy said that they are dropping the online libel provisions of the bill.  According to Sy, the Department of Justice was never pushing for the Online Libel provisions of the bill. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima endorses the new measure.

GMA 7 quoted the Justice Secretary saying: “We will be proposing certain improvements of the Cyber Prevention Act, but of course we need to wait for the action of the Supreme Court (SC) in the pending petition. (Pero) kahit ano mangyari doon sa petisyon na yun sa SC, we are contemplating introducing or proposing to Congress certain enhancements.”

Not only about Online Libel
Of course that was never the heart of the problem. The Online Libel provisions, were in fact, one of many problems with Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. There are fifteen petitions before the Supreme Court seeking the high court to declare the law, unconstitutional. The petitioners raised a total of 29 issues against the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, and Online Libel is just one of those 29. The issues are as follows, as per the Supreme Court’s website:




Petitioner’s Argument

Sol Gen’s Argument


Sec. 4(a)(1)

Makes access to the whole or part of a computer system without right a cybercrime;

Failure to meet strict scrutiny standards (PIFA, et al. Petition)

“The application of strict scrutiny is not called for because Section 4(a)(1) regulates hacking, a socially harmful conduct; it does not regulate, prevent or punish speech.”

“Considering that illegal access is globally recognized as a offense against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data and systems, the Philippines has no reason not to include the same”


Sec. 4(a)(3)

Makes the intentional or reckless alteration, damaging, deletion or deterioration of computer data, electronic document or electronic data message without right including the introduction or transmission of viruses, a cybercrime;

Violation of freedom of expression guarantee (Reyes, et al. Petition)

“Section 4(a)(3) penalizes conduct, not speech.”
Section 4(a)(3) regulates data interference because it is socially harmful conduct. It does not regulate, prevent or punish speech.

“The protected legal interest here is the integrity and proper functioning of or use of stored computer data or computer programs.”


Sec. 4(a)(6)

Makes the acquisition of a domain name over the internet in bad faith, for profit, to mislead or destroy reputation and deprive others from registering the name a cybercrime;

Violation of equal protection clause (PIFA, et al. Petition)

“The difficulty in tracing the real perpetrators of cybercrimes or persons using aliases cannot be a deterrent to the passage and implementation of the law. The cybercrime law was enacted precisely to allow law enforcement authorities to go after the perpetrators of cybercrime whether they be known or hidden under the veil of pseudonyms. Besides, a person who commits a crime using his actual name is as guilty as a person who commits a crime using an alias.

“Cybersquatting is the oldest and best-known form of nuisance in cyber space. Cybersquatters will generally either offer to sell the name back to the trademark owner for an extortionate price, or make money from internet traffic accidentally landing on their page. The practice is a nuisance for the growing number of companies that do business over the internet and are loath to lose valuable traffic to rogue websites.”

“In our jurisdiction, Article 694 of the Civil Code defines a nuisance as ‘any act, omission, establishment, condition of property, or anything else which shocks, defies, or disregards decency or morality,’ the remedies of which are a prosecution under the Revised Penal Code or any local ordinance, a civil action, or abatement without judicial proceedings.”


Sec. 4(b)(3)

Makes the intentional acquisition, use, misuse, transfer, possession, alteration or deletion of identifying information belonging to another without right a cybercrime;

Violation of due process clause (Reyes, et al. Petition)

Violation of right to privacy of communication and correspondence guarantee (Reyes, et al. Petition)

Violation of the freedom of the press guarantee (Reyes, et al. Petition)

“Section 4(b)(3) is intended to protect one’s right to privacy and to protect one’s right to property. The offender’s rights to privacy and protected speech are irrelevant in computer-related offenses.”

“Petitioner Reyes’ fear focus on the words ‘acquisition’ ‘transer’ and ‘possession’ in relation to journalists’ fundamental work of reporting information is unfounded.”

“Petitioners Reyes’ fear can be easily soothed when the principle noscitur a sociis is applied. By noscitur a sociis, the correct construction of a word or phrase susceptible of various meanings may be made clear and specific by considering the company of words in which it is found or with which it is associated.

“the words ‘intentional acquisition,’ ‘transfer,’ and ‘possession,’ must be associated with the term ‘identity theft’ and must be understood to mean any such acts done with the intention of appropriating another’s identity for acquisitorial use.”


Sec. 4(c)(1)

Makes the willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration a cybercrime;

Violation of freedom of expression clause (Guingona, et al. Petition)

“Congress, in enacting Section 4(c)(1), seeks to punish cyber prostitution, white slave trade and pornography for favour and consideration. This includes interactive prostitution and pornography, i.e., by webcam.

“The risks to publishers of publishing ‘nude materials’ in the internet or to film producers of creating ‘artistic works’ is no different or greater than the ‘risks’ presently confronting them under Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code. Since 1932, Article 201 punishes ‘obscene publications and exhibitions and indecent shows.’ To date, Article 201 has not been declared unconstitutional.”


Sec. 4(c)(3)

Makes the transmission of commercial electronic communication with the use of computer systems seeking to advertise, sell or offer for sale products and services a cybercrime;

Violation of due process clause  (ALAM, et al. Petition)

Violation of equal protection clause (PIFA, et al. Petition)

“Unsolicited Commercial Communications or ‘SPAM’ is outlawed because worldwide, SPAM messages waste the storage and network capacities of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and are simply offensive to the unwilling recipient.”

Flooding the internet with useless and nuisance and bulk emails burden the internet networks and reduce the efficiency of commerce and technology. They also result to tremendous losses in revenue if left unpunished.”

“Spam can, in principle, properly be considered a type of trespass-since it is a means by which the spammer uninvitedly use another’s property. Spam can also be considered a nuisance because of its substantial interference with the peaceful enjoyment of a property, which causes considerable amount of damage consisting of clogged disc spaces, network congestion, financial loss and loss of productivity.”

“Spamming is at most commercial speech not worthy of constitutional protection. It is intrusive to the privacy of the internet users and unlawful appropriates the storage and network of ISPs without compensation and for profit. The government has an interest in the free, efficient flow of information, commercial technology in the Internet.”


Sec. 4(c)(4)

Makes libel as defined under Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code when committed through a computer system or any other similar means a cybercrime;

Violation of due process clause (Biraogo Petition; Guingona Petition; Adonis, et al. Petition; Palatino et al. Petition; Reyes, et al. Petition; Sta. Maria et al. Petition; Castillo, et al. Petition; Cruz, et al. Petition; PBA, et al. Petition; NPCP et al. Petition;

Violation of equal protection clause (Guingona Petition; Sta. Maria, et al. Petition; Castillo et al. Petition; NPCP, et al. Petition)

Abridgment of freedom of speech, expression and press guarantees (Biraogo Petition; Disini, et al. Petition; Adonis, et al. Petition;

“Online libel is not a new crime. Online libel is a crime punishable under the Articles 353, in relation to Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code. Section 4(c)(4) just made express an avenue already covered by the term ’similar means’ under Article 355, to keep up with the times. This would immediately negate the oft-used defense that libel committed through the use of the internet is not punishable. That said, the relevant provisions of the Revised Penal Code on libel and jurisprudence on the subject gives ascertainable standards and well-defined parameters which would enable an accuses to determine the nature of his violation.”

“The computer system is just another means of publication”

“Libel committed through a computer system can therefore be defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.
“Libel is not constitutionally protected speech.”

“even without Section 4(c)(4), a public malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead, made with the use of the computer system already constitutes libel.

“online libel was already a crime punished under Articles 353 to 362 of the Revised Penal Code, and to date, has never been declared unconstitutional on the ground of abridging the right to free speech, freedom of expression and of the press.

“it must be emphasized that cyber libel was not given a higher penalty under Section 4(c)(4). Notably, R.A. No. 10175 did not provide for a distinct penalty for Section 4(c)(4). The ‘one degree higher penalty’ was imposed under Section 6 for all the crimes under the Revised Penal Code and special penal laws committed with the use of ICT.“




Violation of the rule on double jeopardy (NPCP, et al. Petition)





Being a bill of attainder (NUJP, et. al. Petition)





Being an ex post facto law (PIFA et al. Petition)

“libel committed by using computer system is punishable under Articles 353-362 of the Revised Penal Code. Section 4(c)(4) merely made expressed another venue for the commission of libel. Said addition does not make said provision ex post facto. Libelous statements made through computer systems prior to the enactment of R.A. No. 10175 are already considered punishable under the Revised Penal Code.”




Violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Adonis, et al. Petition; Reyes, et al. Petition)

“Libel is unprotected speech. It remains to be a crime in many nations.”

“The text of the ICCPR does not mandate the decriminalization of libel. In fact, ICCPR recognizes that the freedom carries with it special duties and responsibilities and may be subject to certain restrictions as are provided by law and as are necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others”


Sec. 5

Declares the aiding or abetting in the commission of Cybercrime and the attempt in its commission as a cybercrime offense.

Violation of due process clause (Reyes, et al. Petition; Sta. Maria, et al. Petition; Cruz, et al. Petition; PBA, et al. Petition; NPCP, et al. Petition)

Violation of equal protection clause (NPCP, et al. Petition)

Violation of freedom of expression clause (NUJP, et al. Petition)

Violation of rule on double jeopardy (NPCP, et al. Petition)

Being a bill of attainder (NUJP, et al. Petition)

“A criminal statute does not become void just because of its reference to general terms, or in this case, of its use of the terms ‘aid’ or ‘abet,’ and ‘attempt.’ There is no constitutional or statutory duty on the part of the lawmakers to define every word in a law, as long as the intent can be gathered from the entire act.”

“The test in determining the ambiguity of a statute is whether the words convey a sufficiently definite warning with respect to the proscribed conduct based on common understanding and practice. The words of a statute are interpreted in their plain and ordinary meaning. There is no need for absolute precision in order to appreciate the words of the statute. A reasonable degree of certainty and flexibility, with clearly delineated limitations, is acceptable.”

“a person who is guilty of aiding and abetting is simply considered an accomplice. Section 5, when read together with Section 8, last paragraph of R.A. No. 10175, shows that a person guilty of aiding and abetting is penalized as an accomplice.”

The laws on libel and as now contained in Section 4(c)(4) “do not operate as ‘prior restraints’ to speech. These libel acts provide for ‘subsequent punishment.’ Thus, petitioners are free toexercise their right to speak out. If what they express is libelous, then they risk subsequent punishment. 


Sec. 6

Imposes a penalty one degree higher for crimes penalized by the Revised Penal Code and special laws, if committed with the use of information and communication technology.

Violation of due process clause (Guingona, et al. Petition; NUJP, et al. Petition; Cruz, et al. Petition; NPCP, et al. Petition)

Violation of equal protection clause (Guingona, et al. Petition; Adonis, et al. Petition; Sta. Maria, et al. Petition; Cruz, PBA et al. Petition; NPCP, et al. Petition)

Violation of freedom of expression clause (NUJP, et al. Petition; Cruz, et al. Petition; NPCP, et al. Petition)

Violation of rule on double jeopardy (Disini et al. Petition; Reyes, et al. Petition; Sta. Maria, et al. Petition; NPCP, et al. Petition)

Being a bill of attainder (NUJP, et al. Petition)

Being incompatible with Art. 19, par. 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of expression (PIFA, et al. Petition)

“The presumption is that the language used in a statue, which has a technical or well known legal meaning, is used in that sense by legislation.”

“thus the first sentence of Section 6 is clear, delimited in scope and is valid.”

“Double jeopardy is inherently a ‘procedural defense’ or a shield that forbids a defendant from being subjected to the possibility of being penalized twice, or being tried again on the same (or similar) charge following a legitimate acquittal or conviction. It is not a constitutional prohibition against laws that may present possible prosecution for an offense penalized under other laws or statutes. Hence, the mere possibility of prosecution for two separate offenses by itself would not render either law unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court “has subscribed to the conclusiveness of an enrolled bill. It has consistently refused to invalidate a law or provision of law, on the ground that the bill from which it originated contained no such provision, and was merely inserted by the Bicameral Conference Committee of both houses.

“The guaranty of the equal protection of the laws is not violated by a legislation based on a reasonable classification. The equal protection clause, therefore, does not preclude classification of individuals who may be accorded different treatment under the law as long as the classification is reasonable and not arbitrary.”

The classification rests on substantial distinction because of the  “scope of reach,” “accessibility,” and effect“

“Thus, due to this nature of the internet, any person with minimal equipment and once online can have the opportunity to create worldwide chaos or intrude into the privacy of others without much obstacle.”

The principle purpose of the law is “to maintain minimum standards of decency, morality and civility in human society. The qualifying circumstance of use of ICT was included in Section 6 as means to deter the increasing commission of cyber offenses.

“the increase in penalties under Section 6 of R.A. No. 10175 is, therefore justified and consistent with the policy of the law.”

The Act is not a bill of attainder, “Section 6 does not seek to punish a status or a group but the action, i.e, using ICT to commit crimes.”

“Section 6 does not punish internet users without the benefit of a trial. It merely makes the use of ICT a qualifying circumstance for all crimes and offenses. All elements including the use of ICT, must be established by proof beyond reasonable doubt.”


Sec. 7

Provides that prosecution under this law is without prejudice to any liability for violation of the Revised Penal Code or special laws.

Violation of due process clause (NUJP, et al. Petition; Cruz, et al. Petition)

Violation of equal protection clause (Disini et al. Petition; Sta. Maria, et al. Petition; NUJP, et al. Petition)

Violation of freedom of expression clause (NUJP, et al. Petition; Cruz, et al. Petition)

Violation of rule on double jeopardy (Disini et al. Petition; Guingona, et al. Petition; Adonis, et al. Petition; Reyes, et al. Petition; Sta. Maria, et al. Petition; NUJP, et al. Petition; PBA, et al. Petition)

Supreme court said that “when two different laws defines two crimes, prior jeopardy as to one does not bar prosecution of the other although both offenses arise from the same fact, if each crime, involve some important act which is not essential element of the other, the protection against double jeopardy is only for the same offense.”


Penal Provisions


Unconstitutional (Biraogo, et al. Petition)

“it is within the power of the legislature to determine what acts or omissions other than those set out in the Revised Penal Code or other existing statues are to be condemned as separate, individual crimes and what penalties should be attached thereto. This legislative power is not diluted or improperly wielded simply because at some prior time the act or omission was but an element or ingredient of another offense, or might usually have been connected with another crime.


Sec. 12

Authorizes law enforcement authorities, by technical means, after finding due cause, to collect or record traffic data in real-time, associated with specified communication transmitted by means of a computer system.

Violation of due process clause (Castillo, et al. Petition)

Violation of freedom of expression clause (Biraogo, et al. Petition; Castillo, et al. Petition)

Violation of rule on searches and seizures (Reyes, et al. Petition; Castillo et al. Petition, Cruz, et al. Petition; PBA, et al Petition)

Allows warrantless electronic surveillance (NUJP et al. Petition)

Violation of right to privacy (Reyes, et al. Petition; NUJP et al. Petition; Castillo et al. Petition, Cruz, et al. Petition; PBA, et al Petition)

The collection of traffic data will not result in any search or seizure of petitioner’s persons and/or property.

The right to privacy does not extend to traffic data.

Traffic data is non-content data that consists of the origin, destination, route, time, and date of the communication.

The rationale for the collection of traffic data is analogous to the one used and recognized in a valid warrantless search of a moving vehicle and to that under exigent circumstances… under existing technology, it is quite impossible to describe the place, things and persons to be searched because what is originally posted or made available online or stored in local computer systems may be changed, removed, or passed on to another instantaneously.

Real-time collection of traffic data is akin to the collection of information derived from visual surveillance of an open physical space and does not intrude into “private” space.

There is no necessity to secure a warrant where there is no invasion of personal space.

Because traffic data is non-content information, the Constitution does not require that it may be collected only upon the prior authority of a judicial warrant.

No privacy can be expected from information revealed to or made available to a third party.


Sec. 13

Preserves data.

Violation of due process clause (Palatino, et al. Petition)

Violation of right to privacy (PIFA, et al. Petition)

Sec. 13 is directed to a service provider and not to individual users.

Requirement under the first sentence of Sec. 13 is a mere amendment to the franchise of telephone companies.

Sec. 13 only calls for the preservation of traffic data and subscriber information… The subscriber’s use and disposition of the preserved data are not being restricted.


Sec. 14

Empowers law enforcement authorities, upon securing a search warrant, to issue an order requiring any person or service provider to disclose or submit traffic data within his possession or control.

Undue delegation of judicial powers to PNP and NBI (NUJP et al. Petition)

The order referred to in Sc. 14 is to be issued upon securing a court warrant.

There is no need to conduct the search and seizure themselves, law enforcement agencies will just require or order the date custodian to produce the relevant data. It’s done pursuant to a court issued warrant.

The power to issue subpoena is inherent in the power to investigate and may thus be exercised by the law enforcement authorities.

Having subpoena powers does not necessarily clothe law enforcement agencies with judicial power.


Sec. 15

Defines the powers and duties of law enforcement authorities in the implementation of the search and seizure warrant

Undue delegation of judicial powers to PNP (NUJP et al. Petition)

Being an unlawful search and seizure (Palatino, et al. Petition)

Search and seizure is a plainly law enforcement function.

This Honorable Court already recognized the authority of law enforcement agencies to seize, retain, and destroy computer hardware and software containing pornographic materials in violation of Art 201 of the Revised Penal Code.


Sec. 17

Authorizes service providers and law enforcement authorities, upon expiration of the periods under Sec. 13 and 15 to immediately and completely destroy the computer data subject of a preservation and examination.

Violation of due process clause (Reyes, et al. Petition; Palatino, et al. Petition)

Sec 17 merely provides for a process of clearing up – the telcos’ systems to avoid overloading their storage capacity.

The clean up protects individuals from unnecessary delay in the investigation and prosecution of a cybercrime.


Sec. 19

Authorizes Department of Justice to issue an order to restrict or block access to computer data found prima facie to be in violation of RA 10175

Violation of due process clause (Disini, et al. Petition; Guingona, et al. Petition; Sta. Maria, et al. Petition; NUJP, et al. Petition; Castillo, et al. Petition; Cruz, et al. Petition; NPCP, et al. Petition)

Being an unlawful search and seizure (Guingona, et al. Petition; Castillo, et al. Petition; Cruz, et al. Petition; NPCP, et al. Petition)

Violation of right to privacy of communication (Sta. Maria, et al. Petition; Castillo, et al. Petition; NPCP, et al. Petition)

Violation of freedom of expression clause (Sta. Maria, et al. Petition; Cruz, et al. Petition)

Violation of rule on double jeopardy (Sta. Maria, et al. Petition)

Undue delegation of legislative authority (Disini, et al. Petition)

Being a grant of unbridled power to the Sec. of Justice to act as a “judge, jury and executioner” of all cyber crime related complaints (Disini, et al. Petition; Reyes, et al. Petition)

Undue delegation of judicial function (Adonis, et al. Petition; NUJP, et al. Petition)

Sec. 10 is an impermissible final restraint on the freedoms of speech and expression.

Sec. 19 seeks to restrain access to, circulation and dissemination of computer data prima facie found to be violative of the provisions of RA 10175. It covers not just conduct but broadly and dangerously sweeps speech.

DOJ’s findings are unprotected speech and expression.

It does not provide for constitutionally mandated procedural safeguards that would justify final restraint.


Sec. 20

Penalizes any person who fails to comply with the order from law enforcement authorities.

Violation of right to privacy of communication and correspondence (Biraogo, et al. Petition)

Violation of freedom of expression clause (Biraogo, et al. Petition)

Being a bill of attainder (NUJP, et al. Petition)

Sec. 20, by its reference to PD No. 1829, clearly sets the definitive elements that will constitute non-compliance.

A person must still be prosecuted for obstruction of justice and thereafter, proven to have knowingly or willfully defied the orders of law enforcement authorities before he will be penalized for non-complaince. 


Sec. 24

Gives the CICC the power to formulate a national cyber security plan

Undue delegation of legislative power (NUJP, et al. Petition)

Powers of the CICC with respect to enactment of relevant laws, issuances, measures, and policies is merely recommendatory.

A perusal of Sec. 2 of RA 10175 readily reveals that the policy of the State deals with the “interest of law and order,” “public interest,” and “justice and equity” are sufficient standards.

How to fix the cybercrime law

The underlying rational for Cybercrime Law isn’t of course evil. In fact, we should have one. The problem of course stems from the draconian implementation, and the misreading of what the Internet is, what the opportunities that it provides not just for individuals but for the economy of a nation, and the myriad dangers online that the government needs to be able to protect or defend from.

Any law that seeks to address these fundamental dangers must be grounded first in protecting civil rights.

This age we are living now is on the corner of the 20th and 21st centuries. We have a nation on the cusp of change, but in many ways remain decades behind. Still, we are faced with increasing threats not just individually on Cyberspace like Identity Theft, like malware, but on a national level, as the nation recently experienced with our brushoff with Taiwan.

The dangers are many. The dangers are myriad. And we are not prepared to meet it head on.

Perhaps, the problem is as many Philippine problems are— rooted in incapacity. Incapacity to build for the future. Whether or not the Philippines is ready, the threats are there. There is no stopping it.

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker recently wrote a review of Star Trek into Darkness, asking if the movie was a drone allegory. She wrote, “The dialogue contains several reminders that, confronted by danger, we must not forget “who we are”—one comes in a speech that Kirk gives at the very end. One fears that what he means is not that he should remember that he is an officer in a society governed by laws—and for good reason—but that he is James Tiberius Kirk. The only real conclusion in the movie is that Kirk should trust his instincts, and carry on meaning well and standing up for his friends. President Obama is due to give a big speech on Thursday about counterterrorism, drones, detainees, and everything he’s trying to do in that space. For a President who has been accused of being Spock-like, his approach to national security and the law has been far too Kirk-like: driven by a belief that his good will alone, his character, compensates for legal limbos like Guantánamo and discredits the anger, here and abroad, about drones. He remembers who he is, and thinks that that should be enough. He’s wrong; what we need to remember is what America is, and ought to be.”

In many ways, I think this mirrors our own brush with Cybercrime Law. I think it boils down to the question: who we are as a nation. Who we are as a society, and as a people. I’d like to ask Secretary de Lima, President Aquino, and Members of Congress this: who do you want the nation to be decades down the road.

Daan Matuwid is built on the premise that without corruption, our nation can be better. So it asks the nation to pay the right taxes. It takes on the fight to oust Renato Corona as Chief Justice. The President is adamant to get his predecessor to answer for her alleged crimes against the nation. The argument is right. How can we as a nation become better if these crimes go unanswered?

In the same respect, what kind of a nation are we building with laws like the Cybercrime Prevention Act? What does it say about us as a people? What does it say about where our leaders are taking us?

So what we need is legislation that looks towards the future. says, we need a holistic approach to cybercrime legislation. We need to look at it from the perspective of Civil Rights, Governance, Development and Security. Which is why the group is proposing the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom. In fact, it was filed before the Senate during the 15th Congress, and the group is working hard to get is filed before the 16th Congress when it opens and perhaps get it passed.

So legislation must take account people’s rights. It needs to be grounded on that. The Constitution of course guarantees the bill of rights. It is more than that. We need to legislate that the Internet be viewed as a place where truth and beauty is created. Where culture thrives.

Legislation on the Internet also needs to address the “problem” of the Philippines with respect to building capacity. So there should be an economic component. The Internet you see is viewed in similar terms to a railway, a highway, a farm to market road, electricity, and ports. It boosts productivity. So the government needs this. Raise the economy through the use of ICT, and not just because there are BPOs, but because ordinary companies are more productive when decks are sent faster. When Employees can communicate through Voice Over IPs or at the very least, reliable telephony.

The threats to security are profound. We are faced with nation-states building Cyber Armies. We are faced with non-state actors like Anonymous conducting denial of service attacks. It is a reverse Kiram and these hacktivists think that DDoS is a reasonable form of civil disturbance online.

There are many more things that need to be thought of. There should be a wide debate on the issue. There should be a demystifying of the issues. How can governments who don’t live and breathe the internet attempt to write legislation for it?

Understanding the Internet

In 1996 a Time Magazine article came out. Philip Elmer-Dewitt wrote about the First Nation of Cyberspace and in it he said, “The Internet imposes no restrictions. Anybody can start a discussion on any topic and say anything. There have been sporadic attempts by local network managers to crack down on the raunchier discussion groups, but as Internet pioneer John Gilmore puts it, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.””

Journalist Ellyne Phneah points out, “Governments need to know what problems the cybersecurity legislation is meant to address, or they will face public backlash over the possible intrusions to their personal rights.”

Therein likes the crux of the issue.

Why Social Media didn’t deliver the Votes

The dust is settling on the 2013 race. We can now start looking at the postmortem of the race. One of the key questions going into the campaign was how social media would help spell victory or defeat for a candidate in an election. The quick answer of course to this question: it didn’t make a difference. This of course is misleading in so many different levels.

Let’s look back to 2010. One of the key lesson of the campaign was how Social entered as a new avenue that a candidate can communicate with his or her constituency. Social Media buzz was a battlefield, but not a key battle ground. Another key lesson of 2010 was startling. That no matter how loud the online voices were, it paled in comparison to television. Correlated with the network readiness of the Philippines, this tells us that society isn’t as digitally connected as we like to think it is.

Fast forward to 2013 we saw how the campaigns used social media to project their messages in a positive light, and how negative campaigns have found their way into social media, but failed to translate into negative effect for their candidates.

Poe versus Binay

You have the case study of Nancy Binay. The Binay campaign was old school. Heavily on the ground. Bouncing from province to province and carried over by the good name of Vice President Jejomar Binay. Nancy Binay didn’t participate in any of the debates. It tells us that the television debates had very little effect too on the electorate. They did not punish Binay for her zero appearance in any debate. They did not punish Binay for the lack of clear policy, and clear messaging.

Let’s compare Nancy Binay’s social network standing with the front-runner, Grace Poe. Poe according to ABS-CBN had 52,451 Facebook followers, and over 6,328 Twitter followers. Nancy Binay accounts for 4,818 Facebook followers, and 6,239. Based on a pure, follower ratio, for the candidates represent a drop in the bucket to the supposedly 25 million or so Facebook users in the Philippines. In fact, President Aquino had over a million followers for his 2010 campaign. I caution the reader: this is a shallow way of looking at these numbers. It is simply instructive to understand where the numbers stand.

What’s interesting is the share of the voice between the two candidates. It is startling. Binay has 78% versus Poe’s 21%. Translation: Binay was more talked about in Social Media than Poe. This obviously didn’t translate much to anything other than talk. Poe wins the top spot. Binay wins. The lack of negativity in the Binay numbers is more attributed to the nascent natural language processing software which social media listening tools use. The technology is still in its infancy so clarity is hard to scope.

Aquino versus Gordon

Let us look at the Aquino versus Gordon Campaigns. The former is a sure win into the Magic 12. The latter is hanging by a thread as of this writing. The former has 144,391 Facebook followers, and 16,179 twitter follows. Gordon has 186,060 Facebook followers, 7,101 twitter followers. Aquino has the higher share of the voice at 80% versus Gordon’s 20%. Again for all the vaunted rabidity of Gordon’s following, they weren’t that loud especially considering that Gordon won a lot in Regions 3, NCR, and 4A— largely urbanized areas were connectivity is a bit accessible than in most places.

What’s interesting to note here is how Aquino ran a well-rounded campaign. He worked on the ground, and he worked online and offline to deliver the message. In fact, in a versus campaign between Poe, Aquino had a higher share of the voice: 71% versus Poe’s 28%.

Aquino versus Casino

Let’s compare Aquino versus Casino. The latter’s campaign initially relied much on Social media. In fact, their following was supposedly large, and loud. In raw numbers: Bam had a larger following than Teddy. Bam had 144,392 FaceBook, 16,179 Twitter; while Teddy had 21,532 Facebookers and 15,836 twitters. The share of the voice had Bam’s 79% versus 21%.

The numbers prove that social was a mere blip on the radar. The audience wasn’t simply there. Was it deliberate that people didn’t want to go on social media to find out about their candidates? Was it because of the lack of connectivity? Lack of access? Is this also indicative of the lack of passion or interest people have with the various personalities?

The lack of influence a debate has on the election also seem to be a reflection on people’s interest. Nancy Binay who didn’t go on a debate and was subjected to a lot of negative campaigning online didn’t fizzle out. Neither of these intellectual escapades paid off for the campaigns. At least, not something to carry them over the top. They were, put in another way: battlegrounds, but not key enough to win the war.

What seems to be the winning formula is the Grace Poe style. Grace Poe’s success is indicative of these things: she campaigned really hard on the ground; her messaging was perfect— exactly what people wanted to hear: “jobs,” “I will help you,” and “integrity” vis-a-vis her father’s well-respected standing.

Another winning formula seems to be the Aquino campaign of well-rounded messaging. Well-rounded in the sense that they played on all the markets: online, ground, debates, and fought really hard.

We can also gleam from this information the lack of connectivity played a key role while people don’t turn to social media for the election. If you follow ABS-CBN’s data, the search traffic alone hardly blipped.

What can we gleam from this?

The answer is obvious. It can finally put to rest that social media is a magic bullet that can cure all ills. The 2013 campaign was waged and won by running a good campaign. By good campaign, meaning sorties, and the right messaging. And social media is just a component in a campaign’s ever growing toolkit. Social media is part of the whole campaign, not distinct, not separate but organically part of it from day one. Depending on the candidate, and depending on the audience that you want to reach, it may or may not be a battle ground that you wish to engage in.

What’s sad really is that at the end of the day, what really carried these people to victory is the power of each of their distinct brands, and what they represent. As I wrote in a previous piece, where I mentioned that none of the key issues mattered in 2013: Reproductive Health Law, Freedom of Information Act, Cybercrime Law, the Sin Tax, none. How then do we make issues matter?

Other than brands, and the importance of “how can this candidate benefit me”, mentality, it also represents the changing of the old guard into the younger generation: Poe, Angara, Binay, Pimentel, Aquino, the Estrada brand, are strong and the electorate continues to bring them to victory. It also seems to put an end to aging politicians. Legarda, dipped. Honasan is on the ropes. Gordon, Magsaysay, Madrigal, Maceda— all former Senators didn’t make it. Magsaysay, with the added complication of having Mitos on the ballot probably lost a substantial number of voters because of her.

Poe’s victory is a reminder that people want integrity reminiscent of the Aquino brand, but with a more populist bent. It is in spite of the brand name mentality, a good sign moving forward to 2016. Integrity and Honesty may still play a key role in 2016.

That said, what are the important questions to ask each of these campaigns? For me it would be these: how did your campaign use the Internet to communicate with your team, and to coordinate volunteers? Did you try to get followers and likers to campaign for you on the ground? How successful do you think it was? Did you use data to scientifically determine which area you should be focusing on?

The holy grail of using the Internet to win a Philippine political campaign continues to be elusive. There’s a winning formula out there. What’s clear, so long as connectivity is in such a short supply, Social buzz will play a minor role. Social is a battle ground. It may not yet carry a candidate over the top, but the Internet is very good also in other terms other than buzz, if the campaigns haven’t realized it yet. What’s also clear is this: the field is ripe for disruption. We may see it in 2016.

Images: screenshot of ABS-CBN’s halalan 2013 social media listening

Post-election round-up

I am sad that Jun Magsaysay and Risa Hontiveros didn’t make it to the Magic 12 but I will be laughing through my tears when Migz Zubiri and Dick Gordon accuse Gringo Honasan of cheating them of their rightful place in the Senate.

I am sad JV Ejercito made it but at the same time I’m happy he is at the tail-end. His brother Jinggoy is sad. Period. On a happier note, I can’t wait for the two Ejercitos to take opposing sides on an issue. JV and Jinggoy trying to show up each other, whoopie! Will JV call Jinggoy Honarable Kuya or will he address him in the manner he deserves?

I think Risa Homtiveros made the fatal mistake of pegging her campaign on Nancy Binay. She should have focused on the other UNA candidates where her record on human rights, anti-corruption, and public service would have stood in stark contrast. But she didn’t. So the only imprint her attack on Nancy Binay left was that of a mestiza picking on a housemaid. I would suggest that she shoot her campaign strategist but hacking the idiot to pieces would be more satisfying.

Grace Poe bested three of the best disguised trapos in the business. I always thought Grace would be in the top six but becoming number one never crossed my mind. I love it. She was the most underestimated candidate, thought to lack brains and experience and knocked for riding on her father’s name and fame but she proved her mettle during debates and more than held up in penetrating one on one interviews. She showed that she is intelligent at the same time sensitive and her moral compass points true North. Give her a little time to settle in and she will become a gem in the Senate.

The election of Cayetano, Binay, Angara, Pimentel, Ejercito indicates that dynasty is a non-issue as far as voters are concerned. I hope the anti-dynasty crowd accepts the will of the voters instead of doubling their efforts to frustrate the will of the voters by lobbying for a law prohibiting people who happen to share the same bloodline from becoming public servants. Besides Leni Robredo won against a Villafuerte and Aga Muhlach looks like he will beat a Fuentebella. So anti-dynasts please show a little more faith in the wisdom of the common man.

The good showing of Team Patay proves that Team Buhay is dead. There is no Catholic vote if by Catholic vote you mean robots operated by bishops. There is no Iglesia ni Kristo vote either. But that proposition will be difficult to prove because the INC leadership does not announce its endorsement until the last poll of Pulse Asia and Social Weather Station is published. At any rate, the divergent approaches show the difference between the Catholic bishops and the INC bishops. The former do not pay attention to surveys. And that’s ironic because surveys tune in on the voice of the people which is supposedly the voice of God. Then again if those bishops listened to the voice of God to begin with, they will not meddle in secular politics.

The biggest losers are Enrile, Estrada, and Binay. UNA came in last. That shows they have no endorsement power if the candidate does not carry their surname and in the case of Enrile, he couldn’t even carry his own son. The good news is we are all winners. If I have to explain to you why we are all winners, then you are among the losers who believed that there was more to UNA than Enrile, Estrada, and Binay. ‘Yun lang.

Winner’s curse: How the opposition intimidated Team PNoy to take the low road to win in 2013 while leaving daang matuwid with no clear agenda or heir-apparent

In the Japanese martial art of Jujitsu one gains victory not by superior strength, but by using the force of one’s opponent against him. This is what the leader of the “friendly” opposition Vice President Jojo Binay did to the administration in the 2013 senatorial elections.

Having defeated President Aquino’s heir apparent Secretary Mar Roxas in the 2010 vice presidential derby, Binay’s unrivalled popularity while in office and his links to two of the most revered names in Philippine politics (Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and ex-president Joseph Estrada) made “winnability” foremost in Team PNoy’s mind in considering candidates for its 2013 senate slate.

Having experienced the “tyranny of numbers” in the lead up to the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona and in the subsequent push to have a number of its reform measures passed, the administration was not going to risk losing a majority of senate seats this time around. This caused the administration to take a “win at all costs” approach.

Its first move was to mend fences with its former rivals in the 2010 election. The entry of the Nacionalista Party’s standard bearers into the tent of Team PNoy spelled an about face for both parties. Senator Alan Peter Cayetano had started the TOPAK meme which maligned the president’s mental capacities. Senator Loren Legarda had called on him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation during the campaign. All that was swept under the rug as far as the administration was concerned.

After framing the contest between Messrs Aquino and Villar back in 2010 as one of “light v darkness”, the Villar’s were all of a sudden admitted among the “chosen ones” who would travel down the “Righteous Path” alongside the president. Not to worry, the administration said, since such a coalition was based on platforms, not personalities. Except that they avoided at every turn to define what that platform was.

When asked to identify the top 5 legislative proposals Team PNoy would push for if elected, its spokesman, Rep Miro Quimbo could only identify 4. “Let me get back to you on that” was his candid response. Unfortunately even the priorities he outlined didn’t figure in any formal policy document or in most of the endorsed candidates’ platforms.

When asked why there was no shared policy platform across Team PNoy, the undersecretary for strategy and communications, Manolo Quezon replied that midterms weren’t about policies but a referendum on the president. You either believe in him and his “chosen ones” or you don’t. So there you have it. The election was framed as a clash of personalities and their proxies, not as a contest of ideas, policies and visions for the country. Here’s what he said…

Consequently, the voters simply did what they have always done when faced with no real alternatives but the same old dynasties and incumbents: they went with those that connected with them on a deep emotional level, those with whom they felt a sense of shared destiny.

Due to the economic make-up of our electorate, that meant electing Nancy Binay even if she had no prior experience working in an official capacity in government. It also meant catapulting Grace Poe to pole position based on the memory of her deceased father and the playful use of her surname as an expression of respect.

Both these candidates scored high on our “trapo scale” dubbed the “pander-o-meter” based on an analysis of their personal platforms. Of course their policies were never scrutinised by the media. Neither did the intelligentsia perform its role in critically assessing the promises of each candidate (the absence of party-wide platforms made this task a lot more difficult than it should have been).

Health care reform, a key plank in Ms Binay’s platform was not given the kind of treatment it needed. She was never challenged on the feasibility of her proposals to provide free nutrition and medicine particularly to nursing mothers. In the case of Grace Poe, nobody noticed that her campaign was anchored on a coulda shoulda woulda basis committing her to nothing specific and nothing firm.

The candidates were allowed to promise the sun, moon and stars all the while pandering to the emotional pleasure zones of the electorate without the voice of reason being given an honest hearing. Social media was co-opted to suit the candidates’ purposes. There was no one calling them out on the false hopes and expectations that they were building.

Finally, in assessing the aftermath of Election 2013, what we will find is that although Team PNoy garnered a clear majority of seats that were up for grabs, it comes out the weaker party.

Sure, it now can boast of having a majority in both chambers of congress, but the political calculus facing its adherents will be daunting. Will they really pursue the tough and unpopular reforms that are needed to bring the country forward, especially now that the electoral bankability of the BInay dynasty remains utterly unassailable?

Secondly, the president does not have a clear, viable heir-apparent to challenge the Jojo Binay-Jinggoy Estrada machinery and name recall in 2016. Secretary Mar Roxas has not accepted his party’s draft to run perhaps due to his failure to define a narrative for his candidacy.

Only one of the Liberal Party’s three senatorial candidates is likely to win in this election, in large part due to the fact that he shares the same name as the president. Bam Aquino will be too young to contest the presidential elections in 2016 being a year shy of the minimum age requirement, repeating the fate of his late-uncle.

So that leaves the administration with a mere three years to cement its legacy before handing over the reins to its successor who is likely to come from the opposition. For failing to define its agenda and properly vet its allies prior to the elections, the administration now suffers the problem of having no clear mandate to implement whatever reforms it outlines afterwards.

The same thing happened following the 1986 people power uprising. Rather than develop a new breed of politicos based on principles and a common reform agenda, the revolutionary government of Cory Aquino accommodated and resuscitated the clans who ruled the country in the pre-Martial Law era allowing the children of its revolution to die in the ditches defending their cause.

Joseph Estrada once said that her government’s biggest mistake was letting guys like him back in (clever guy he truly is!). Only those like Jejomar Binay who were willing to “play by the rules” of the jungle survived.

Instead of taking the hard, difficult path of building a constituency for reform through principled, policy-driven politics and developing a new breed of politicians from inside its base, the second Aquino administration opted to go down the quick and easy path to success, just like the first.

For those that thought 2010 marked the beginning of an era of new politics, think again. The years 2010-16 might simply be an interlude, a case of trapo interrupted, where the country enjoyed a momentary respite from the worst forms of populist, predatory politics at the top, before old habits kicked in once again.

Image: courtesy of

Trapo alert! 2013 Election summary

I have attempted through this series to have a serious discussion of the 2013 senatorial aspirants and their political platforms (or lack thereof). These were put through what I called the pander-o-meter to determine whether the policy detail they had released placed them in either the reformist or populist columns. The following table details the range of possible scores a candidate was able to get and their equivalent meanings:

The ‘Pander-o-meter’ or Trapo Scale

A reading of… …is equivalent to…


Low levels of pandering detected, generally reformist in nature


A mixed bag of proposals aimed at both pandering and reforming


Trapo alert! Approaching dangerous levels of pandering


Could be likened to a vote buying trapo

Follow the links below if you want to review the detailed notes regarding each candidate’s score (found in parenthesis):

Part 1: Juan Edgardo Angara (3), JrBenigno Aquino IV (1.5) and Alan Peter Cayetano (6).

Part 2: Francis Escudero (2.5), Risa Hontiveros (2) and Loren Legarda (4).

Part 3: Aquilino Pimentel III (3)Joseph Victor Ejercito (4) and Juan Ponce Enrile, Jr (1.5).

Part 4: Gregorio Honasan (1.5)Ernesto Maceda (5) and Juan Miguel Zubiri (6).

Part 5: Teodoro Casiño (4), the Democratic Party of the Philippines’ Bal FalconeChristian Señeres and Greco Belgica (3), and the Ang Kapatiran Party’s JC delos Reyes, Lito David and Mars Llasos (4).

Part 6: Grace Poe Llamanzares (4)Eddie Villanueva (3) and Richard Gordon (5).

Part 7: Jun Magsaysay (1)Edward Hagedorn (2)Antonio Trillanes (3)Samson Alcantara (4)Ramon Montaño (3.5) and Ricardo Penson (2.75).

Part 8: Nancy Binay (4), Ting Cojuangco (4), Jamby Madrigal (3.5), Mitos Magsaysay (3), and Cynthia Villar (4).

In studying the platforms of various candidates, more weight was given to the legislative program they articulated through campaign documents and news releases. Platitudes and expensive programs with no costings or identified sources of funding were reasons for marking down the candidate. Those that offered buzzwords with no policy detail were likewise downgraded. I then took account of their stand on certain critical issues. Some revision was done to account for this.

It should be noted that assessing candidates can be a highly qualitative exercise. We are all subject to our individual biases. I tried to ground my analysis on the policy prescriptions of each candidate rather than on issues concerning their private lives or rumours of misconduct. The following interactive charts show the Trapo scale reading for each candidate and the average for each ticket, beginning with Team PNoy, followed by the UNA Coalition and the independents.

Golden opportunity gone to waste?

The average score for Team PNoy is 3.13. It is a mixed bag of reformers and populists. The administration missed a golden opportunity in this election to define a legislative agenda for the remaining three years of its life and require those on its ticket to commit themselves to this program of government.

Having the wind in its back with investment grade status being granted Philippine sovereign debt by credit rating agencies, Team PNoy could have crafted a set of reform programs that would have consolidated these gains and teased out the president’s social and economic agenda through legislative proposals. Instead it was left up to each member of the team to set priorities in an uncoordinated and often self-contradicting fashion. Rather than follow the president down the righteous path, their policy prescriptions seemed to be scattered to the four winds.

Team PNoy would have us squander the gains of his administration. In direct violation of its stated policy of shrinking the fiscal deficit down to 1 per cent of GDP per annum in a year or two before it leaves office, some of the “chosen ones” want to go the other way. One intends to exempt petrol from VAT and another wants to lift the tax free threshold to the minimum wage level with no offsetting savings or revenues. At the same time they want to expand social entitlements massively. That would lead us back down the same road to ruin we were on early in the last decade.

No viable alternative

The average score for the UNA Coalition is 3.8. It is reaching dangerous levels of traditional politicking, akin to vote buying almost. While the administration has not assembled a team with a coherent and cohesive agenda, the opposition is not offering anything better. They are in fact trying to outdo Team PNoy in promising populist measures. It is the role of a responsible opposition party to present a viable alternative program of government. Unfortunately, the UNA coalition is not performing that role very well (or at all) with the way most of its candidates pander to the electorate.

The average score for the Independents is 3.35. They are a mixed bag, which is what you would expect. There is one or two reform minded players in the mix. If I was thinking of cherry picking candidates from various parties instead of voting for a straight ticket, then I would select from one of these options.

Of tramps and trapos

The pander-o-meter was crafted so that we as voters could have a way of cutting through the sweet nothings politicians often whisper in our ears. These often consist of what the late Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman called “free lunches”. The thing with free lunches as Friedman famously pointed out is that they simply do not exist. Someone will eventually have to foot the bill. Lavish entitlement programs are hard enough for rich countries to maintain, let alone impoverished ones.

When a government can muster no more than 20 per cent of its economy from taxes and other forms of revenue to pay for its expenses, then whatever spending it does has to be efficient, well-targeted and productivity enhancing. What we have seen from most of the candidates of Team PNoy and UNA is a spraying of social entitlement programs every which way without regard at all for our budget bottom-line. Nothing and no one seem to rein in their capacity to promise the sun, moon and stars. They seem to be operating on an assumption of limitless resources, instead of the shallow pockets that we have.

You might of course assess the candidates differently with your own scoring system. In the end, all I hoped to achieve was to concentrate the discussion on what really counts: policies and programs, costings and budgets, rather than on celebrity and platitudes. If we compare the pander-o-meter reading with the polls for instance, it is clear that several candidates on the verge of being elected to the senate do not deserve to be there. I hope that this series has been helpful in elevating our political discourse to some extent by bringing to light certain substantive issues that normally do not gain much attention in the course of our electoral cycle.

What the Internet is saying about the Election of 2013

Halalan Screenshot

Have you ever wanted to know what the Internet is saying about the Candidates of 2013?

It is called Social Media Listening. This is software, and tool that analyze tweets, and blogs, and on occasion, Facebook as well to get an indication of what the “consensus is” on the Internet. Basically what it does, is software analyzes what people say and weigh them towards positive, negative. The basic premise of the software is called, “Natural Language Processing”, a field in Artificial Intelligence.

The premise is: how do we get machines to understand what humans are saying?

It is trying to figure out human-computer interaction. The same concept behind Siri. Social Media listening scans your tweets and blogs, and (sometimes Facebook too) to determine what everyone is saying. So you get positive, and negative mentions, and determine the sentiment.

The thing about this though is the state of Natural Language Processing. It is in its infancy. It’s the difference between Windows 1 and Windows 8. Right now, Social Media listening is in that Windows 1 place.

Natural Language analysis is at its infancy. “Filipino” is a difficult language to do natural language. Let alone the gazillion other dialects out there, not to mention, Filipino English has its own sphere just as British, American English are different. We actually do need more research into Filipino natural language processing.

There are many reasons for this. Mainly, Artificial Intelligence is hard. So getting computers to understand what humans are saying is particularly difficult. Just ask Siri, and you know what I mean. One of Siri’s components is natural language processing.

We’ve only just begun.

Battlefield stats

Take ABS-CBN’s Halalan app (powered by the good folks at IBM) is a taste of what this technology is. What I really like about this is it really does give you the basic premise of the technology. They feed you the social mentions, and they round it up with Google Trends. This is particularly useful for people, I think. I love how this is a potential eye-opener on how much we listen into the conversation, and if there are any kids reading this, you might want to also consider *specializing* in social media listening.

What does this ABS-CBN Battlefield statistic tell us?

First off, let’s identify three key figures. The first is Teodoro A. Casiño who finds himself in “The Magic 12”— that is IF you ask the Internet who they want and what his real life vote is. The second is Bam Aquino, and the third is Nancy Binay.

Let us start with Casiño. I think the Casiño candidacy is a great barometer of how well this technology can predict the outcome of a race, and shows the inherent importance of being dispassionate about looking at data.

The Casiño candidacy has been social media prolific from the very beginning. They’ve really done a great job of capturing the air in terms of volume, and interaction. During the E-Democracy forum, Maria Ressa pointed out that there seem to have had two different data sets. The Casiño network on one side, and the two parties on the other. It represents, in my humble opinion the disconnect of the Casiño with mainstream, and the mainstream disconnect with Casiño’s following.

Yes, you get a lot of volume. Yes, you get a lot of active mentions, but is this converting voters or are you pandering to the already converted?

So again, it is interesting to see how this plays out in general election. How well did Casiño convert his massive social media following into real votes?

In the post-mortem of the election, it would also be interesting to look at the campaigns of Bam Aquino, and Nancy Binay.


Bam Aquino campaign is essentially the best campaign to merge Online, and Offline campaigning. They were everywhere. The messaging on and offline were integrated. They did not missed a beat. This is a perfect and modern example of what campaigns should have done in 2013, and going into 2016, perfect, battlefield practice for what’s to come next in terms of political campaigns in the Philippines.

Nancy Binay search term

The second case study ought to be Nancy Binay. Why? She’s the Anti-Bam campaign. Traditional. Totally skipped out and ignored Social. She essentially ignored all the air campaign, and focused on the ground. If you click on the link to ABS-CBN’s halalan battlefield and look down at Nancy Binay’s keywords. Particularly, 3 and 5. you’ll see what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong, Nancy Binay’s campaign is exactly what she should be doing to get elected. In her campaign’s shoes, I would be advising the same thing. Don’t get involved online. Don’t go on debates. Why should you when your constituency isn’t on there? And to go there, could shed more votes than you can imagine. Yet all these social media listeners are saying the Internet will vote for her as well.

Why are these three campaigns important? They teach us what could be next in 2016. Depending on the outcome— the election we will have a clearer understanding of the role of social in the election and an increased appreciation of what’s next.

Here’s another caveat for you: look at the keywords, RHLaw, FOI, Cybercrime, did they trend in the candidates keywords? It is indicative of what this election is probably not about: the issues. That’s not really new in Philippine politics, but even those online didn’t seem to talk about it that much.

Going back to social media listening, for now, my point is this. Take it all with a grain of salt. This is just the beginning. We are just beginning.

Images: screenshots from ABS-CBN’s website.

Trapo Alert! Detecting political pandering, part 8



Featuring Nancy Binay, Tingting Cojuangco, Jamby Madrigal, Mitos Magsaysay and Cynthia Villar.

This is the eighth part in a series on the candidates for the senate in 2013. Just a recap: I am attempting through this series to have a serious discussion of the aspirants and their political platforms (or lack thereof). These are put through what I call the pander-o-meter to determine whether the policy detail they have released so far places them in either the reformist or populist columns. The following table details the range of possible scores a candidate can get and the equivalent meaning of each reading:

Introducing: the ‘Pander-o-meter’ or Trapo Scale

A reading of… …is equivalent to…


Low levels of pandering detected, generally reformist in nature


A mixed bag of proposals aimed at both pandering and reforming


Trapo alert! Approaching dangerous levels of pandering


Could be likened to a vote buying trapo

In part 1, I covered Juan Edgardo Angara, JrBenigno Aquino IV and Alan Peter Cayetano. In part 2, I covered Francis Escudero, Risa Hontiveros and Loren Legarda. In part 3, I covered Aquilino Pimentel IIIJoseph Victor Ejercito and Juan Ponce Enrile, Jr. In part 4, I covered Gregorio HonasanErnesto Maceda and Juan Miguel Zubiri. In part 5, I covered Teodoro Casiño, the candidates of Ang Kapatiran Party (John Carlos delos Reyes, Lito David and Mars Llasos), and the candidates of the Democratic Party of the Philippines (Bal Falcone, Christian Señeres and Greco Belgica). In part 6, I covered Grace Poe LlamanzaresEddie Villanueva and Richard Gordon. In part 7, I covered Jun Magsaysay, Edward Hagedorn, Antonio Trillanes, Samson Alcantara, Ramon Montaño and Ricardo Penson.


Nancy Binay (PDP-Laban-UNA)

The erstwhile assistant of the vice president is gaining the spotlight as she runs for public office for the first time. Having served on the board of her parent’s foundations, Ms Binay is planning to push for health and education services in the senate. Her television ads contain three pledges, which include:

  1. Providing better prenatal and post natal services
  2. Free medicine and nutritional supplements
  3. Education to employment services

It is not clear how her proposals would work. She has not released a detailed policy statement. Her web presence is fairly limited. Her Facebook page contains mostly photos of her and a guy I presume is her partner on the campaign trail. What knowledge we have of her policy prescriptions come from ads and news items.

Ms Binay is banking on the franchise of her family name to assure voters that her promises are backed up with years of assisting her parents in their charities and public service work. Much has been made of her unwillingness to debate Risa Hontiveros on health issues.

While Risa talks in the abstract of making healthcare “more universal” through a systemic reform of the health system, Nancy is using very specific and perhaps targeted health programs that “make it real” to voters. That and the very tangible example of what the Binays have done in Makati is why she seems to be appealing to voters despite the fact that this is her first time to claim the public spotlight.

Unfortunately, we do not know how her programs would be funded and how costly they might turn out to be. It is feasible to do these things in the City of Makati with its rich taxpayers footing the bill for their programs, but doing the same throughout the country will be a major challenge, something that the traditional media has not confronted her with. Indeed, the mainstream media have in a way given Ms Binay a free pass.

I am not saying that her programs cannot be done. All I am saying is that someone will have to foot the bill for them. And without sufficient information regarding how big these programs are intended to be and how they will be funded, we have to take her proposals with a grain of salt.

Pander-o-meter: 4 out of 5


Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco (UNA)

This former governor, a history and national security buff, is running to create a peaceful end to the conflict in Mindanao and the settlement of the Sabah issue, her long-time passions. After listening to over forty minutes of her being interviewed on cable news regarding her plans, however, it is still not clear to me as to what her roadmap is for bringing this about.

It is such a shame, given her knowledge gained from scholastic and personal pursuits and involvement in the decades’ old peace process, that she is unable or unwilling to articulate a coherent roadmap for a long-term settlement of the conflict in the south. Pity as even her inclination as expressed in the interview tends to veer away from the current course taken by the administration in revamping the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Does that mean the present set up is fine? If so, then why is it that there still is no real peace in the south? What is her alternative plan?

These are serious questions that remain unanswered. She sort of excuses herself for not enunciating a response by saying that ordinary Filipinos are simply not interested in hearing it. That is simply condescending. If one is going to treat voters like children, so that instead of sharing the harsh realities and stark choices, one offers ear candy or things which they presumably want to hear as self-interested individuals, then one shouldn’t be surprised if they return the favour with an equal amount of disdain.

Pander-o-meter: 4 out of 5


Jamby Madrigal (Liberal-Team PNoy)

Up to now Ms Madrigal’s website has a non-functioning tab for her “Platform”. In other words, she has not even bothered to inform us what her legislative agenda would be if she were to be given another chance to serve in the august chamber of the senate. What are we to make of this?

The only bit of information that exists is her stand on a number of issues from reproductive health to the promotion of eco-tourism. But that really is not nearly enough for us to know what exactly her plan is. Like I have said countless times in this space—it is not acceptable to merely mouth slogans or buzzwords in this campaign. For members of the voting public to support you, you have to provide very concrete measures to address important public policy issues. We know from the bills she has previously authored that Jamby stands for protecting the rights of women and children as well as the environment, so she should lay down an agenda to further those causes over the next six years.

It is not proper to merely use celebrities or gimmicks through social media to gain traction in a bid for a senate seat. There has to be substance. Unfortunately, despite taking some principled stances on certain issues, Ms Madrigal has failed to provide direction to her campaign by laying down a platform. It does not help that her party, the LP and Team PNoy has not come out with a unified stand on issues and a coherent agenda to implement over the course of the next congress. That has left a vacuum for each candidate to fill, which unfortunately Ms Madrigal to this day has failed to attend to.

Pander-o-meter: 3.5 out of 5


Mitos Magsaysay (PMP-UNA)

This feisty representative from Zambales prides herself with being a “fiscalising” critic of the administration in Congress and vows to do the same if she reaches the upper house. In her bid to attract attention to herself, she runs the risk of being identified as a demagogue with no policy substance whatsoever.

But in fact, if you look at her record in Congress, you will find she has authored a number of significant bills that were passed by the lower house. One of these is an act creating a national student loan board to benefit poor students. If you study this bill closely, you will find that it has some very interesting features. The planned student loan system would be funded by a wage-based levy similar to Philhealth and SSS of anywhere from ½% to 4% of salaries based on a progressive scale (the higher the income, the larger the contribution which sounds complicated to administer). Student loans would be charged 5% annually and have a loan term of 5 years to pay.

I wonder which country Mrs Magsaysay had patterned her proposal after. If she had studied the Higher Education Contributions Scheme or HECS in Australia, she would have learned that five years is too short for student loans accumulated over four years of studies to be paid back. The cost of human capital should be amortised over the working life of an individual, which is at least 20 years.

Another thing is the interest rate. HECS does not charge any interest, or at least commercial rates of interest. It does however index the balance of the loan by about 2.5 per cent every year to keep up with inflation. In addition, a discount is offered for up-front payment of student fees.

The Australian model does not finance student loans with contributions from the working population, but from general appropriations and from repayments of students previously enrolled in the system. Repayments are conditioned on subsequent incomes being commensurate to what is expected of a university graduate. Payments are collected through the tax office in the form of mandatory deductions to one’s personal income. If the person earns less than the threshold, then no repayments are required.

(The recently concluded conference sponsored by the ASEAN and Australia was a forum where Philippine policy makers could have gained a better handle on these issues. Unfortunately, we did not participate in it.)

For this program to work, adequate funding has to be pumped into the coffers of the loan administration equal to the annual student fees collected by state universities and colleges for a number of years. This is until loan repayments from previous cohorts are sufficient to finance the loans of subsequent cohorts. Then the system could potentially be expanded to cover courses offered by private higher educational institutions. When years 11 and 12 are introduced in 2015 and 2016, and there are no incoming freshmen to SUCs, it would be an ideal time to bank some funds in preparation for the launch of the student loan board. I have detailed all this in a previous post.

Mrs Magsaysay has drawn much attention to herself as a firebrand, criticising the administration’s priorities at every turn. She criticises the president’s emphasis on Pantawid Pamilya which encourages primary school enrolment, while she says not enough money is spent boosting tertiary education. The two need not be in conflict, and she should realise this.

Pander-o-meter: 3 out of 5


Cynthia Villar (Nacionalista-UNA)

Mrs Villar’s record in the lower house shows that she espouses the cause of the vulnerable in society, including seniors, children and women. She has also worked on updating the charters of UP and modernising the Philippine Normal University. When asked about the congressional investigation into nursing education in which she took the side of poorly performing providers rather than the needs of hapless graduates who could not meet the minimum requirements of the profession, she stumbled by denigrating the aspirations of those students, for which she later apologised.

Her platform consists of promoting livelihood programs for women and tree planting activities for environmental conservation purposes. She points to the work that she and her husband Senator Manuel Villar have started in their city in which she served as mayor as evidence that such programs work. It is not clear though exactly how these programs would work at the national level. Does she intend to mandate all local governments to imitate her own pet projects in Las Piñas? Or does she intend for a national agency like the DSWD to manage it? If so, where would the money to finance these programs come from?

This has been a recurring theme in this series. Candidates for the most part are not forthright about the intended size and scale of their proposals. My feeling is that we would need a fiscal sustainability law to force them to cost these and determine the source of funds for them. This would discipline candidates and parties when crafting their policies to provide full transparency and accountability. Without such information, the policies and programs that candidates present are simply pandering to the interests of targeted voters without any care given to their fiscal impact or sustainability.

Pander-o-meter: 4 out of 5


The final instalment of this series will come in the form of a summary. Stay tuned!