Friday, April 30, 2010

JOSE de VENECIA III: Senator No. 12

Ten days until Election Day in the Philippines. I thought that I should write about some of the candidates that I will surely vote for.

I am voting for Joey de Venecia III (no.12 in the list) for Senator for subjective and objective reasons. Subjectively, he has my vote because he is a family friend, a Facebook friend, a provincemate (Pangasinan), a townmate (Washington, D.C.) and a cybermate. For that kind of relationship, I would have the obvious privilege of unquestioned access to a Philippine Senator. So would my family, friends, townmates, provincemates and cybermates. To many, that alone would be enough reason to vote for him.

I am voting for Joey mostly for objective reasons. He is what I call the ideal Senator for the “E-Generation”. First he has advocated and will surely continue to promote the “electronification” of the entire country not only the urban areas but most especially the rural areas. His proposals to have a computer in every Filipino home and a cell phone for every family certainly reinforce that commitment.

In the early 1990s, I founded a company named First Convergent Communications Worldwide, Inc. At that time, I had predicted the convergence of voice, audio, print and video communications technologies. At about the same period, Joey launched his Multi-Media Telephony, Inc., reflecting a vision and a recognition that the wave of the future is in multi-media communications technologies. While pioneering the “call center” industry in the Philippines, and running one of the most efficient paging system, his company obtained a Congressional telecommunications franchise and Certificate of Public Convenience allowing it to prepare for the building and development of a broadband network conducive to the emergence of the converging technologies. He was indeed a man of action. While I had the option to buy a similar franchise, I never exercised it.

Broadband Philippines, Inc. which he founded offers a superior technology in high speed internet access, IP (Internal Protocol) Telephony and Video over IP. I know because I used it while operating in the Philippines. I could call the US for free from my car in the Philippines while in the highway or when stuck in traffic. I could also watch my cable shows in Virginia from anywhere I could access Joey’s wireless broadband network.

When Joey proposed to build a National Broadband Network in the Philippines at no cost to the Philippine Government, he wanted every Filipino to experience what I was enjoying. But his goal was frustrated by the greed and corrupt practices of what I call “the Broadbandits” led by the husband of a consenting President who would have been ousted if not for the timely support of former President Fidel Ramos and then Speaker Joe de Venecia, Jr., Joey’s father. The exposure by Joey of the Broadbandits and the First Couple’s involvement forced him to fulfill what really is his political destiny.

Electing him Senator would just be a step towards the fulfillment of a vision and mission the success of which was temporarily suspended by temporal rulers. When I mentioned “E-Generation”, I was not only referring to electronic media or communications but also to those who are concerned with economic growth (employment, entrepreneurship, equity expansion); education (e-learning, eBooks); environment; empowerment; enlightenment; ecumenism; energy independence; and excellent health care.

Literature research and empirical studies made by the World Bank cite the significant effects of broadband connection in the economic growth of both developed and developing countries. Once every family has a computer and a broadband connection as Joey proposes, knowledge and education would be accessible, available and affordable to everyone. Each member of a family can have an e-library of eBooks consisting of 4.7M pages contained in a DVD which would cost only Five (5) Pesos or about 10 US cents. All the textbooks from Grade One to Senior High School could be made available to each student or family for instant retrieval in anybody’s home. Anyone can enroll in an online college or university for self-improvement or for credits toward a degree.

The social effect is also undeniable. With Voice over IP, every home would be able to communicate for free, with loved ones who are working or residing overseas – 8 million of them.

There are now 1.7 B (Billion) users residing in 233 countries or territories accessing ICT. Globally, there are now more than 4B (Billion) mobile users. If given the opportunity, Joey with other foreign leaders would increase that rapidly. In the words of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on the positive impacts of the Internet and ICTs, “include a limitless possibility for improving human conditions in this and all nations by providing new mechanisms for education, facilitating global trade, meeting the basic needs of people, improving communication and health care, enabling economic benefits and offering opportunities for upward mobility to underserved population.”

ITU also cites negative impacts of global connectivity – “such as interference with networks and data, theft and/or disclosure of private or protected information, fraud, identity theft, money laundering, phishing, spam, and disruptions to critical infrastructure or infrastructure – work to prevent many from participating in or realizing the full benefits of the new global community.”

In order to reinforce the positive impacts, deter the negative ones and to define the “behaviors, actions and activities that can be consistently be described as unacceptable, along with the procedures to be followed when these behaviors are observed or investigated;” Philippine laws have to be passed.

Working with other nations, we have to deal with cyber criminals and cyber terrorists and should share common approaches to the criminality of such acts, including jurisdictional issues, cooperation in investigations, search and seizure of digital evidence, and extradition. For these, Philippine laws have to be passed.

A Cyber lawmaker is therefore needed. The Philippines needs someone who has the knowledge, experience, and expertise in kubernetes (cyberspace) – someone who thinks and eats it while drinking coffee in the morning; someone who chews it and dreams about it after drinking his wine at night.

That someone is Jose de Venecia III. I am voting for him as Senator (No. 12). I urge my all my friends, relatives, townmates, provincemates, classmates, cybermates and every right thinking Filipino to vote for him too. He is the Senator for the E-Generation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Maguindanao Massacre Victims: AGRAbiyado

The Maguindanao Massacre is back in the headlines and in barber shop talks. Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra decided to clear two powerful members of the Ampatuan clan in the massacre of 57 people, including 32 media workers, several women and children. This is in reckless disregard of the position of the lawyers directly prosecuting the case and of the presence of a witness positively identifying suspended Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Vice-Gov. Akmad Ampatuan, Sr. as co-conspirators of the massacre.

Agra, who was the election lawyer of President Arroyo and of the Ampatuans, accepted and cited the alibi defense of the two Ampatuans as his reason for their clearance in this most brutal election-related killing in history. Instead of using the resources of the government to help the victims procure and consolidate all proofs showing an Ampatuan clan conspiracy, he chose to use the powers of his office to allow his former clients to escape with the weakest of defenses in conspiracy cases. An offender does not have to be at the scene of the crime to have participated in planning and conspiring to commit the crime. The claim that they were with President Arroyo and other Muslims when the massacre was being committed would only give credence to additional suspicions.

Instead of letting justice take its course and letting the judge who had already assumed jurisdiction over the case, try and decide, he chose to override the opinions of the prosecutors directly involved in procuring, preparing and organizing voluminous evidences and records. He did it after reading and studying such records within 24 hours. The fact that the judge already determined probable cause by issuing warrants of arrest was of no consequence to him.

For his action, the Acting Justice Secretary aggravated the suffering of the massacre victims who got reassurance from him that he would study it thoroughly a day earlier. There are now doubts on whether the victims would be able to obtain justice under the present dispensation.

In order to emphasize a point, my law professor used to tell our class, “let me repeat it again once more for the second time twice.” In a similar vain, let me also say, “I have said it, and wrote about it. Now, let me say and write it again, the Maguindanao Massacre is a Crime against Humanity and it must be treated as such.”

The Ampatuans and their co-conspirators are charged with killing children, women, and journalists who are protected parties under International Law. They offended not just Filipino citizens in particular, but all of humanity in general. They can therefore be tried outside of the Philippines. Some international and/or foreign courts can acquire jurisdiction and try them under a different set of rules without the aggravation of dealing with a questionable judicial system subjected to potential terror, intimidation, and corruption. Yes, let me repeat, in Crimes against Humanity, there is Universal Jurisdiction.

The case can be tried either later this year, next year or anytime in the future. The Statute of Limitations does not apply in cases of this nature. It would be good to have a government that is supportive of the case but it should not be a deterrent if the Philippine Government opposes it. Currently, we just let the prosecutors procure, gather and prepare the evidences and records for the domestic trial. We also have to make sure that such evidences are kept and protected safely. There are new methods of preserving records in this age of information technology and cloud computing.

The ex post facto law doctrine in Crimes against Humanity also may not apply. So, if a law is passed to make sure that a fair trial is conducted but detrimental to the interests of the accused compared to the previous one prior to passage, it could still be applied retroactively. The fact that an action is violative of a Philippine law or domestic law is no defense in international proceedings of this nature.

Double jeopardy is not necessarily a safe defense for all the accused if they get exonerated or if charges are dropped/dismissed in the Philippine trial. It just has to be proven that the trial was a sham.

In Crimes against Humanity, punishable are those who committed the crime/s and also those who failed or omitted to stop the commission of such crime/s. That’s why as enunciated in several cases, the principle of Command Responsibility is an accepted doctrine in International Law. Some Heads of States, senior officials of the government and military commanders have been charged and/or convicted under this principle. Full knowledge of the criminal acts by the superior is not even necessary.

The inclusion of President Arroyo and some of her senior officials together with the Ampatuan conspirators in such charges therefore, could be a distinct possibility.

The fact that Arroyo and many of her people are running for Congress could be to obtain the immunity privileges accorded their respective positions. It is even better for them if the next elected Chief Executive would be somebody on their side. This way, when traveling abroad, they could be provided with diplomatic cover.

Electing the right President therefore is critical but should not be a major deterrent. There are other remedies provided by International Criminal Law.

When asked about his view, my barber said, “you? AGREE; AGRA? No; Massacre Victims? AGRAbiyado!”