Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011: Lettered Words of Wisdom, Numbers Tell The Stories


MaliGALLANG Pasko at MAyNIGOng Bagong Taon!
(Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!)

GALLANG is my mother’s last name. My barber says that according to a customer of his, in some Spanish-speaking countries “LL” is pronounced as “Y”, hence Gal Lang is GaYang. MaliGAYANG Pasko means Merry or Joyful Christmas.

MAyNIGOng Bagong Taon means Prosperous New Year. My middle and last names therefore mean a combination of Joy and Prosperity.  My baptismal certificate indicates Benjamin Jesus having been born almost on Christmas day.  Devout Catholic and followers of the Divine Word, there is no surprise to naming me after a couple of biblical characters.

2011 started (“Consumer Electronics 2011”, January 5, 2011) and ended (“‘Miracles’ In The Sin City”, December 21, 2011) in Las Vegas for my barber, Asian Journal USA, our readers, and me. The Sin City is the yearly site of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Despite being dubbed as the city for “sinners”, CES has neutralized it because of the little “miracles” that are revealed during the show.

These miracles come in the form of virtually unbelievable and seemingly impossible technologies and gadgets that could have been created with the support of the “holy spirit” who possesses infinite wisdom. The consumers, with faith and love, receive these amazing products of innovation fully aware that they are tools that affect their daily lives – be they profession, occupation, education, vocation, business or lifestyle.

Publishing is about imparting and reporting facts, data, information, and knowledge. It is also about analysis, personal and public opinions. Depending on how the readers receive, perceive and conceive them, they could be viewed as “words of wisdom” or cries from a biased ignoramus.

For better appreciation of our column, we always try to present the 5 Ws and 1 H – Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. And to get the readers’ attention and easier retention of the info, knowledge or “wisdom” being imparted, we introduced the “lettered words of wisdom.”

As Filipino Americans we showed interest on anything significant involving the Philippines and the United States.

We came up with, “D.C. of D.C. in D.C. on D.C. is D.C.” Debate and Confrontation of Dysfunctional Congress in District of Columbia on Debt Ceiling is Disturbingly Critical.

Then, “Debt Deal Done Despite Differences and Difficult Decision.” It was followed immediately thereafter with, “Balancing the Budget, Balancing the Books, Balance Sheet.” Earlier, our involvement was in “Tackling the Deficit and Joining the Tax Debate.”

We had to opine on “Walker vs. Workers in Wisconsin”, and showed our concern by “Watching Wronged Women Win Worldwide.”

On the Philippine situation we discussed the “Old 4Gs to New 4Gs Gaining Ground”. Old Gs refer to Guns, Gold, Goons and Girls while the new Gs refer to God’s Gift of Good Government.

“PNoy: 4H and the E-Gen” was written to establish the foundation for our support of President Noynoy Aquino. 4H refers to Hope, Honesty, Humility and Honor. The E-Gen refers to Education, Economic growth (employment, entrepreneurship, equity expansion), Electronic media or communications, Environment, Empowerment, Enlightenment, Energy Independence, Excellent Health Care, Electoral Reforms and Effective Security Force.

“PNoy, POGI, Pinoys” was written to discuss the President’s participation in Open Government Partnership promoting transparency and accountability. POGI is People’s Open Government Initiative). 

The people’s participation in industrialization, investments, infrastructure development and innovation as well as encouraging the increase in tourism, trade, technology transfer and targeted training was the focus in “Ps, Is, Ts”.

Sana, SONA, South China, Saan Na” and “B (Bully, Bribery, Bilateral Pacts, Bodyguard) S (Spratlys, Sino Saber-rattling, Sling Shot, Sea Law)” were our ways of getting engaged in other Philippine issues.

 

The “Planet of the Apps”; “Pacquiao Fights 2 Battles - Wins Both By Majority Decision”; “Lucky 9, Cloud 9, Love Potion Number 9”; “Miracles in the Sin City”; and “SPORTS: Seeking a Solomonic Solution; Shaping and Sharing Social Responsibility” dealt with figures, and the numbers told the stories.

 

2011 did not stop us from getting involved in controversial issues of historical importance. We wrote a series on “Marcos: To Be or Not To Be At LMNB”; and “Marcos: Fake Medals Redux” Parts I – IV. “Is Marcos a Hero” quoted the reactions and comments of readers on the said series.

 

We published our Letters to both Vice President Binay and President Aquino expressing and justifying our objections to the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

 

There were sad and joyful moments as well as challenging and enlightening ones. My barber, Asian Journal USA, and I made sure that our readers did not miss them and our feelings were expressed accordingly.

 

We paid tribute to the late “Conrado F. Estrella: A Hero and Pride of Rosales, Pangasinan” and “Maria Mabilangan Haley: Model In The Strictest Sense.”

 

The article on our family reunion, “Gift of Time, Gift of Family” was joyful while  “Life as a “Journey: Joy, Justice, Job, Jefferson, Jesus, and other Js” as well as “Easter: Reconciliation, Resurrection, Rebirth, Renewal” were efforts to enlighten.

 

The value of new technologies and gadgets were described as we faced certain fortuitous events in “Acts of God vs. Government, Governed, Geeks, Gadgets, Google, GoodReader.”

 

Writing a column indeed, is not just reporting about and enjoying the present, reflecting and learning from the past, but it is also about facing the challenges of and “Winning the Future”.

 

2011 was the year that was!

 

 

 



















Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“Miracles” in the Sin City

Monday, December 19, 2011

Challenging the Might of a Constitutional Right


The libel suit of PhilWeb Corporation against Internet blogger, Leo Alejandrino, bothers me.

The suit was brought about by comments made by Leo in his blog, entitled “The Saga Continues” which is hosted by Word Press. The complaint specifically quoted certain comments that the plaintiff claims to be defamatory:

“Ongpin has other vulnerabilities: His Philweb gaming franchise could be questioned, the business has a tie-up with PAGCOR and he has loans with DBP and LBP. I would stay away from his stock.

Rey is the low-lying fruit and the obvious fall guy. Ongpin says he loves him (“Rey is one of the smartest bankers in the country”, from Ongpin the ultimate profession of endearment) but he also said this of his partner of 50 years and of his country of 70. I am told Ongpin has already approached the Solicitor General for a deal but the Palace is not buying."

I read Leo’s blog more than once and the complaint twice. My view is that it could not, would not, and should not prosper.

I went back to my notes in U.S. and Philippine Constitutional Law, Cyber Law and Libel Law. There is no Cyber or Internet Libel law and jurisprudence in the Philippines so the plaintiff is relying mainly on Articles 353 and 354 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

I will tackle first the aforementioned articles of RPC, deal with them on the merits and relate the other laws and provisions of the Constitution later.

The complaint asserts the crime of libel being committed because all the elements as defined by Article 353 are allegedly present.

I beg to disagree.

First, the comments of Leo taken either partially or in its entirety are not defamatory.  “Defamation, including libel or slander, means injuring the person’s character, fame or reputation through false and malicious statements.” His statements are neither false nor malicious.

PhilWeb is a publicly listed company and derives a major part of its income by virtue of the franchise granted by PAGCOR, a government corporation. It has contracts with government agencies including the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Any information relating to any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance attributed to it should be of interest not only to shareholders and potential investors in particular but also to the public in general.

I am not surprised if there are questions on why PhilWeb was given the Internet Gaming Franchise without public bidding. Neither is it surprising to question why the PhilWeb-PAGCOR contract is allegedly co-terminus with PAGCOR’s corporate existence, which is in 2033. 

Consistent with PNoy’s anti-corruption campaign, it is expected that certain transactions that the government entered into in the past could be questioned. That’s why a search of news reports both offline and online would show that certain public officials have questioned and continue to question the wisdom and regularity of PAGCOR’s relationship with PhilWeb.

Second, are the comments of Leo committed publicly by the means enumerated under existing Philippine libel law? Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code provides that libel is committed by “means of writing, printing, lithography engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means.”

Blogging, online or electronic publishing are excluded from the list. Are they considered “similar means”? Since there is no Internet Libel law or Supreme Court jurisprudence regarding the matter, it might be wise to look at the laws in other jurisdictions. In a New York Supreme Court decision relating to whether electronic publishing is deemed included in the publishing contracts, it said NO because at the consummation of the publishing contracts, none of the parties knew about e-publishing then and the future.

Similarly, the authors of the Revised Penal Code were not and could not have been thinking of Internet blogging as one of the means to commit libel. The Revised Penal Code was enacted and became effective in the early 1930s.  

Third, were Leo’s comments malicious? The plaintiff is again relying on the provision that malice is presumed. A careful read would show that the presumption is not conclusive. It can be overcome by showing that the comments were published with good motives and justifiable ends. Article 361 states outright that the defendants shall be acquitted in such an instance.

The law also provides certain exceptions to the presumption. They are the absolute privilege communication and the qualified one as stated in Article 354 of the Revised Penal Code.  In fact, the Supreme Court had ruled that the rule on privilege communications applies to “fair comment on matters of public interest, fair comment being that which is true, or which if false, expresses the real opinion of the author based upon reasonable degree of care and on reasonable grounds.”

It is very clear that Leo’s motives in writing a blog without compensation are good. An expert in banking, finance and economics, rarely do we see someone like him freely provide data, information, analysis and wise opinions and/or advice on matters benefiting many unsuspecting small investors.

In a stock exchange which could be at times subject to stock manipulation, and one that is trying to build a reputation of clean and fair trading, it would be justifiable as an end for smart and intelligent financial analysts to freely express their views without fear from harassment such as a suit from a listed firm.

Fourth, PhilWeb is no doubt identified as the one whose deal with PAGCOR had been questioned by certain Senators, Congressmen and some published reports. There is also no doubt that its Chairman and principal stockholder Bobby Ongpin was the one who obtained loans from DBP and LBP and NOT PhilWeb. The entity referred to by Leo as under investigation by the Senate for possible insider trading and stock manipulation is Ongpin NOT PhilWeb.

Fifth, did Leo cause discredit or dishonor to PhilWeb?  His comments were informative, educational, entertaining and most importantly, beneficial to the public. As a publicly listed company, PhilWeb is a public juridical figure. Granted by the government a special privilege to operate Internet gaming, it is in the public’s interest to be informed.  Section 7 of Article III of the Constitution states: “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. “

FREEDOM OF SPEECH, EXPRESSION, OR OF THE PRESS

Section 4 of Article III of the Constitution provides: “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for redress of grievances.”

The provisions of the libel law should not be interpreted to effectively abridge freedom of the press. The latter is too important for the survival of democracy.

As American Publisher Arthur Sulzburger said, “Freedom of the press, or to be more precise, the benefit of freedom of the press, belongs to everyone – to the citizen as well as the publisher…The crux is not the publisher’s ‘freedom to print’; it is, rather, the citizen’s ‘right to know’. “

Leo Alejandrino, by blogging about politics and economics in the Philippines, has answered the call of duty and responsibility as a citizen. In an era where the culture of corruption has engulfed society, he is invoking his constitutional right as well as using the God-given tools he knows best. He is doing it with the best of motives and with the most justifiable ends.

PhilWeb should withdraw the complaint. It is for the benefit of the current stockholders, its own, the government, citizens and our democratic ideals. PhilWeb cannot stop Leo and other bloggers like me from using the Internet as a means of disseminating information and expressing our opinion.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

PLANET of the APPS

“Numbers tell the story.” I have used this phrase often to explain things to my barber and to others who appreciate points made when supported by real numbers.

About seven (7) billion people now populate planet Earth.  Since the start of the digital age, there are now about two (2) billion personal computers in use worldwide. Fifteen percent (15%) of these computers carry the Apple brand.

There are now about five (5) billion cell and smart phones used on Earth.

A planet getting digitized, Earth interconnects its inhabitants, phones and computers through a worldwide web or what is commonly called Internet.

Currently, more than two (2) billion earthlings use the Internet worldwide. About 900 million and counting are on Facebook.

Twitter, in a blog published early this year, came up with the following numbers:  it takes 1 week to send 1 billion tweets; 140 million is the average number sent per day; and 460, 000 new accounts are being created daily.

In 2010, 6.1 trillion text messages were sent.

For every computer, cell/smart phone, use of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, there are corresponding operating systems, drivers and thousands of other applications.

The software applications involved would equate to trillions, if not more, as we who populate the Earth assume a complementary and supplementary “digital or cyber life”.

Welcome to the PLANET of the APPS!

As we begin to appreciate and get used to this new cyber way of life, we try to live guided by the Golden Rule of “doing good and avoiding evil”.  As expected, there are those who, for economic, political and other unknown reasons, would wish to disturb our positive cyber ways.

These evildoers are called “hackers”, “cyber attackers”, or what we call in legal parlance, “cyber criminals”.

During the last 3 weeks, I attended 3 conferences at the Washington Convention Center.  They were the Enterprise Architecture Conference, the Government Video Expo, and the Cyber Security Conference and Expo.

I was lucky to have attended them as a member of the Press.  My Press Pass allowed me to join in all the conference sessions, expo, and eventually access any or all the presentations online. Let me express my deepest appreciation to Ms. Andree Diggs who approved my Press Credentials. Her company, 1105 Media, efficiently and effectively managed two of the conferences: the Enterprise Architecture and the Cyber Security.

These conferences are follow-ups to E-GOV (electronic government) gatherings that started in the 1990’s as computers, wireless communications, and the Internet began to engulf our way of life. I used to attend them as the U.S. Government defined its role being E-GOV of, by and for the people.

E-GOV is basically the use of information technology (IT) by the government to provide better service to its citizens, the business community, its employees, organizations, and other governments by providing easy access to government information and public services.

The information technology as developed by both the private and public sector became so sophisticated and complex that IT Architecture has become necessary. Eventually called Enterprise Architecture, it provided better understanding, more efficient and effective electronic governance.

The enemies of E-GOV and the citizens of the world have become very sophisticated as well. According to FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) data cited in a U.S. Senate testimony, “annual cybercrime profits and damages have hit a trillion dollars.”

The tools that are increasingly used by hackers for these cyber crimes are called “botnets”. Symantec estimates that there are about 3.5 million to 5.4 million botnets worldwide.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported that companies such as Sony, Google, Lockheed Martin and two of South Korea’s largest banks have been hacked. Even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Citigroup announced that their computers were breached a few months ago.

In effect, the battleground against terror and crime is no longer limited to Air, Land and Sea. Cyberspace has become a place for warfare. For this reason, the U.S. Military has declared it a military domain.



China, for example, has been accused of hacking Google’s infrastructures. On the other hand, the former accused the United States of being an “information imperialist,” and of using the Internet to overthrow governments.

The Pentagon, despite budgetary problems, “requested US$3.2 billion worth of funding be allocated to “cyber security”.  A U.S. Cyber Command has been established and in fact, has had operational capacity.  Cyber Commands are likewise being established in other countries. It was reported that India is looking to establish a “Cyber Control and Command Authority” while China has established a “Blue Army” to defend the People’s Liberation Army from attacks on its networks.

The Cyber Security Conference was informative, educational and self-reassuring.  I hope to write more on the topics and issues discussed in the very near future as the likes of my barber begin to understand and appreciate them.

The Philippines has been dubbed as the Facebook Capital, Tweeting Capital, Texting Capital and the Call Center Capital of the world.

In the immediate future it could become the Capital of the PLANET of the APPS.  My advice is for the country to seriously focus on Cyber Security.

Tech IT or leave it!