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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

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

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

A full-blown economic storm

The perfect economic storm is now upon us.

As our political leaders as recently as this week continued to get caught up in the whirlwind of controversy surrounding the former president Gloria Arroyo, a storm of a different kind had been brewing on the horizon.

A few weeks ago, I had warned that the country was sailing right into this tempest almost unaware as its political class seemed more enamored by internal rather than international events. Finally, the stiff economic headwinds that I had been speaking of have finally turned into a fierce global contagion emanating from the US and Western Europe and spreading into Australasia.

The US is already half-way into a lost decade. Recent economic figures point to a prolonged slow recovery, and the likelihood of another recession now imminent. Western Europe is gripped with the bailout woes of the PIIGS economies with Italy now looking more likely to default. A bailout would require Germany and France, two of the largest economies, to undertake austerity measures of their own.

Even after Democrats and Republicans signed a deal to lift the debt ceiling, credit ratings agencies downgraded their outlook for the country as fixing their fiscal house in the long run seemed unlikely given the highly contentious nature of the package required for this almost ceremonial task. The tsunami has now hit Asian markets with East Asia and Australia taking a battering today.

China which has its own version of the sub-prime mortgage crisis developing with town and village councils saddled with loans resulting from its stimulus program could now find its growth slowing to below sustainable levels. And of course, the uprisings in MENA are continuing to raise the price of oil.

The Philippine government which was responsible for restraining growth in the fourth quarter of 2010 and the first quarter of 2011 with its self-imposed fiscal contraction will now wish that it had done more in those periods to foster growth to protect it from the global economic slowdown that now seems apparent.

What is at stake here are the remittances from overseas and the exports of goods (electronics, cars and machinery) and services (tourism and business processing) that have propped up our economy. With demand collapsing in the global economy, don’t expect these flows to materially rise in the coming years.

Secondly, the flow of investments or hot money would in a period of uncertainty normally seek safe havens. Unfortunately, the traditional safe haven of US treasury may no longer be as reliable as before. This could lead to significant depreciation of the greenback which will hit our competitiveness in global markets even more.

Thirdly, the PPPs which the government was hoping to augment its meager 2.5% of GDP spend on infrastructure (5% is the benchmark) could be threatened as investment funds now re-calibrate their tolerance for risk. The emerging market of Asia would be an alternative to the ailing Western economies, but that is no guarantee. With global demand easing, the need for foreign investments to expand production capacity diminishes.

Finally, what is to become of the government’s 7-8% growth target (minimum of 5%) on average for the next five years? It is more likely that global events will weigh down on the prospects for this. The government will have to work harder now to maintain fiscal and economic stability.