Monday, February 24, 2014


The Philippine Supreme Court recently declared the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 as constitutional except for some parts that it considered as unconstitutional.

I was not surprised.  My view is that the Supreme Court in the exercise of its power of judicial review passes upon the constitutionality of an entire legislation only as a last resort and upon determination of “real, earnest and vital controversy between individuals”.  The court decided to deal with only a few of them.

I will touch only one issue. Section 4(c) (4) of the Cybercrime Law or the application of Section 355 of the Revised Penal Code (LIBEL) was declared constitutional but not insofar as it purports to create criminal liability on the part of persons who receive a libelous post and merely react to it.

So if you receive a defamatory post on Facebook, Twitter, or email and you react to it by liking, commenting, or sharing/re-tweeting it, you are not criminally liable. Only the original author would be liable.
Vox Populi Kubernetes
(Voice of the People in Cyberspace)
As I wrote in a previous column/blog, the need to have a Cybercrime Law was longtime coming.  Philippine Internet users are very active in the cyber world. They are the freest in Asia and the sixth freest in the world.  They are also prone to the dangers posed by cyber criminals.

Having participated in the discussions and development of the Cybercrime Convention, the Philippines was expected to pass legislation patterned after the format developed at the Convention.

The Philippines did!  In fact, the bill that originated in the House of Representatives was copied almost verbatim from that of the Cybercrime Convention.  However, it became less acceptable when, in the Senate, Senator Sotto sought the insertion of Online Libel.  The provisions on the protection of Intellectual Property Rights as well as safeguards like Human, Political, and Civil Rights guarantees were excluded.  The provision on Online libel was not in the Convention while those relating to Intellectual Property, Human, Political and Civil rights were.

Not only did Congress, and now reinforced by the Supreme Court, add online libel as a crime, it even increased the penalty for its commission by one degree higher.  

Penalties for crimes are provided to inhibit or deter the commission of crimes.  Libel as crime under the Revised Penal Code already provides a deterring penalty that includes imprisonment.  Under Cyber libel, not only does it consider ICT use to be a qualifying aggravating circumstance, but, as Chief Justice Sereno pointed out, it has the following effects: First, it increases the accessory penalties of libel; Second, it disqualifies the offender from availing of the privilege of probation; Third, it increases the prescriptive period for the crime of libel from one to fifteen years; Fourth, it increases the prescriptive period for its penalty from ten years to fifteen years; and Fifth, its impact cannot be offset by mitigating circumstances.

The Constitution states; “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.” – Section 4, Article III

Justice Leonen, also of the current Supreme Court, is of the opinion that Libel, be it under the Revised Penal Code or the new Cybercrime Law, is unconstitutional.  He says that it “now stands starkly in contrast with required constitutional protection of freedom of expression.”

Indeed, the continued criminalization of libel especially when the form or medium used is the Internet produces such chilling effect that it effectively stifles our fundamental guarantees of free expression.  The law that provides it has the effect of abridging the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms provided under Section 4, Article III.

Living in a democracy requires the free exchange of ideas and views in all forms of media.  The governed must freely receive and disseminate information without fear. Freedom of Expression is the device that every citizen uses to share the truth and to understand all the issues. For this, “no idea, no opinion, no doubt, no belief, no counter belief, no relevant information”, may be kept from him and fellow citizens.

The value of the Internet as a medium for the Freedom of Expression for effective governance and for wider and direct participation by citizens in governance is incalculable.

Expressing one’s views not only to a local audience but also more to a global one “freely” and without or with minimal “fee” strengthens the democratic processes. It empowers people from even the remotest corners of the globe, inspires them to think of new ideas, and encourages them to acquire and share these ideas.

The threat of possible imprisonment because of Libel would stifle this inviolable and primordial constitutionally guaranteed right.

People Power covers land, air, and sea but also extends its domain to cyberspace.  Its powers are as pronouncedly, efficiently, effectively, and courageously used in the Internet. Through the Internet, greater participation by the people without fear means greater power for the governed.

In the Internet, the fear by people to be maligned is based on false assumptions. The truth is that potential victims have as much power to reply, defend, protect, and apprehend offenders.  Currently technology provides it.

To be effective in utilizing their power to legislate, Senators and Congressmen as agents or representatives of the people are given the privilege to speak freely in the halls of Congress – even free to defame anybody without fear of detention. They have what we call immunity from suit.  We want them to be great generators of new ideas and views in legislating to benefit their principals – the people.

Under the Cory Constitution, the people as principals reserve the right to directly legislate through People’s Initiative.  In cyberspace, Filipino users have been enjoying free speech privileges without any threat of detention – not unlike the immunity from suit enjoyed by the legislators. Cybercrime libel as currently worded changes the dynamics. 

In the name of the People Power or EDSA Revolution that provided them the opportunity to enjoy their current privileges and powers, the Senators and Congressmen should DECRIMINALIZE LIBEL as soon as possible.

Friday, February 14, 2014

AVELINO HALAGAO: A Jolly Good Fellow

 A memorial service is planned for the late Judge Avelino Halagao on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. at Marymount University.  Tina and I plan to attend and offer our prayers and condolences to his family as we did during the wake of his late wife Siony who died in 2012.
Siony and Aveling
To many of us, Judge Halagao was nicknamed Aveling.  A close lawyer-friend called him “Jabbar” – after Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar who is a 7-footer.  Initially referred to jokingly for his comparatively short size, Aveling actually gained respect by standing “tall” in many of his undertakings.
Aveling was a fellow Ilocano; a fellow Bedan; a fellow lawyer; and a fellow basketball fan and follower..
Involved in so many fields of endeavor, he was always greatly pleasing in his approach, cheerful to work with, and charming to friends and foes alike. 
To everyone, he was by definition, and “nobody could deny” that indeed, he was “A Jolly Good Fellow.”
We both came from the Ilocos Region in the Philippines – he from Ilocos Sur and I from Pangasinan.  We both spoke the Ilocano dialect and could sing with a lot of enthusiasm, “Manang Biday”, “Banatiran” and “Ti Ayat Ti Maysa Nga Ubing”. Many do not realize it but there are more Ilocano-speaking residents in Pangasinan than Pangalatot!
He was a great visionary – (wittily translated in Tagalog by my barber as “may malaking kita”) as he showed outstanding leadership in the community we lived in.  He co-founded the Ilocano Society of America (ISA) and became its first President.  He commanded a following that would blindly assert, “no anya ti kunkunam, kunkunami metten”. (Whatever you say or your view is also what we say or is also our view).
We both went to San Beda College of Law – the school that was dubbed by the U.S. Embassy as the “Harvard” of the Philippines during his time (at least a decade older) and mine.  I would have preferred “Yale” but that was the embassy’s view.
Aveling was always proud to say, like I did, that during that period San Beda produced more Bar Topnotchers than failures. Meaning - easier to top the bar and pass than to fail if you study in San Beda. 
His younger brother also went to San Beda. I told Aveling that his brother was a ranking leader of the Crusading Lions’ Party which I founded when I successfully ran for President of the Student Council.  It was in power for several years in San Beda partly because of his brother.
We were both lawyers.  He was, in fact, one of the first Presidents of the then, Philippine Lawyers Association (PLA) in Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.  It was later renamed the Philippine American Bar Association (PABA). I became President under the latter. He did an outstanding job!
Earlier employed by a bank, he specialized in Trusts.  When he started his private practice, clients trusted him to handle immigration, real estate, and accident cases.
When I came back to settle in Washington, D.C. for health reasons, we planned to set-up an Asian Pacific American Law Center.  But his decision to go back to the Philippines suspended our plans.  So I suggested that he should get involved in Philippine politics instead. Being acceptable to both the Singson and Crisologo clans in Ilocos Sur plus a political network that we built earlier, he could become a Congressman under the Party-list system. I introduced him to my nephew, another Bedan, Carlo Maynigo Bernabe who co-founded the Philippine People’s Parliament (PPP) – a certified party-list organization. He was a special assistant to Mayor Herbert Bautista of Quezon City, his classmate. He learned the mechanics and dynamics of the system through my Bedan lawyer-friend Sixto Brillantes III. The latter turned out to be a classmate of Aveling.  Brillantes is now the Chairman of COMELEC.
Since it was too late for Aveling to pursue the party-list route, another opportunity presented itself – a vacancy, (COMELEC) Associate Commissioner.  We pushed him to get the position without political backing.  He advocated genuine electoral reforms and good governance giving priority to OFW and immigration concerns.  He was in fact short-listed but unfortunately, as I expected, another one was appointed. 
Lesson learned: in the Philippines, political backing is still necessary to get appointed to a position like COMELEC Associate Commissioner.
Setting-up his law firm and with my nephew Carlo as Executive Director, a professional law and lobby firm was born.  His firm was aggressively representing foreign companies that possessed new technologies.  Until his death, his firm was introducing the “best and most innovative technology for waste to energy management system” to Local Government Units (LGUs) in partnership with the private sector. This latest technology was the product of a French company.
Aveling was not only a basketball fan and follower who witnessed the playing days of San Beda’s Caloy Loyzaga – Asia’s best Cager ever; and those of Jerry West, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and the latest million dollar-earning stars.  He was also a player who had pick-up games with lawyers Mingging Ordoveza, Dodong Tecala, Mon Paterno and me.  In fact, he was the player-coach of the San Beda Alumni team when we played against the Ateneo Alumni team in an exhibition game.  We lost to a team led by Mon Paterno and a bunch of former MICAA players by one point, I think! J
 I could not resist writing this tribute to Aveling.  It would be like singing the song, “"For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" – meant to honor, greet, or congratulate him for a significant event.  That event is his union with his Creator.
The origin of the tune is French like the technology company that he last represented.  It is the second most popular song in the English language, following “Happy Birthday To You” and followed by “Auld Lang Syne”.
Avelino Halagao, due to his achievements on earth, will forever be immortalized.  Together with Siony, he produced great children.  He built foundations that future generations would emulate and follow.  He planted trees and built a resort in his hometown that brought and continues to bring joy and entertainment.
Here is to AVELING: a FELLOW Ilocano Bedan lawyer and basketball enthusiast!  He is indeed, “A Jolly Good Fellow”.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


In the 1990s when we introduced the eBook technology in the Philippines, we touted it not only as a regular reader of electronic books or documents but also as a reader with a voice.  This is because the Franklin Reader and the Mobipocket Reader, which were embedded in our eBookMan device, had a text to speech app that went with it.  The same readers are now incorporated in the Kindle – successor of the eBookMan.

We used to cite a study showing that when you read the text of a book for the first time, the comprehension was about 20%.  When you listen to the reading of a book, the comprehension was 30%. And when you read and listen at the same time, the comprehension was 50%.

This was quickly accepted by students and professionals such as lawyers, doctors, professors who usually did a lot of reading and many others including actors.

At the International CES 2014, I learned about a similar but more sophisticated technology, more advanced with more uses and possessing greater features.  Named CAPTI Narrator, it was launched in Las Vegas by Charmtech Labs, LLC which is headed by its President and CEO Dr. Yevgen Borodin.

I arranged a meeting with and a demonstration by Dr. Borodin at the Venetian Hotel.  A very learned man who impressed me as a man with a social mission, Dr. Borodin showed me the different features of CAPTI.

First, he claims that CAPTI is liberating.  You can convert the texts of any webpage with an article, blogpost, or a book to speech.  His demo proved it.

Second, he says CAPTI is focused.  You can listen only to the main content in webpages, skipping ads, menus, and other clutter.  His demo showed it.

Third, he argues that CAPTI is intelligent.  The app will reassemble the articles that are spread across multiple pages.  Amazingly, he showed me how it was done.

Fourth, it is mobile.  The app allows you to listen on the plane, on the road, in the gym, on a walk, even when you are offline.  To me, this was obvious.

Fifth, he considers it personalized.  This is because you can choose from many high quality English voices and set your preferred speech rate.

Sixth, the app is organized.  You can use the playlist to organize your content, save it for later or listen to it right away.

Seventh, CAPTI is accessible. It works seamlessly with VoiceOver screen reader.

Lastly, the app is a good tool for Social Media.  You can share content with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, via Email or SMS.

Indeed, Dr. Borodin demonstrated to me an amazing and “magical” technology that could be very useful to most if not all people in all walks of life.  All that is needed was for me to download it and test it myself.  My exposure to the eBookMan/Kindle eBook reader technology would help guide my assessment.

I downloaded CAPTI from the Apple Store for FREE.  When I asked Dr. Borodin how he would make money he frankly admitted to me that his company gets a share from the sales of the “voices” that are sold.

There is a default voice that goes with the app so it is really not necessary to buy a “voice”.  But since I want a natural voice with an American English accent, I bought both female and male voices.

Clicking on CAPTI on my iPhone, I accessed my favorite webpages with articles (mostly news, views, and comments) and clicked the play symbol.  It read to me the articles with the natural voice of my choice. Sometimes, I also read the texts but mostly, I just listened.  I also noticed that it only reads the main content in the webpages.  Gladly, the ads, menus and other clutter were skipped.

I also created a playlist that organized contents that I saved for listening later or even right away.  In my trip to New York where I attended the LegalTech 2014 conference, CAPTI allowed to me to access and listen to the contents that I earlier saved in my playlist.

The browser in the app allowed me to access social media like Facebook, Twitter, Email, SMS, and Google +.  Again, I had the option to listen, read, or both. I did all for testing.  It is amazing!

CAPTI is aptly described as an “Application Enabling Consumers to Listen to Anything They want to Read” and “Free the World from the Clutches of the Screen.”  I absolutely agree.

In this age of the Cloud, Dropbox, Clipboard, and the Google Drive, CAPTI could retrieve any content that is stored and read it to you as you lie in bed, in the hammock, or at the beach.

I see several practical uses of CAPTI.  It was conveniently useful when I used it at the gym.  It could make it easier for people to multitask while listening to content on a walk, while cooking, eating, watching kids, during the commute, on the plane, or while relaxing.

CAPTI is also useful for students to keep up with their reading materials while exercising or commuting.  The strain on one’s eyes is reduced.

As we touted in the 1990s, comprehension skills are improved – even for English language learners.  Even people with cognitive disabilities would be able to look at the screen and listen repetitively and gain greater comprehension.  This is true for people with low vision as well.  The benefits for blind people are obvious.

I highly recommend the use of CAPTI.  The innovations and the social benefits of CAPTI have been recognized by federal research agencies like the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research at the Department of Education (NIDRR) and the National Eye Institute at the National Institute of Health.

Download it!  It is FREE    

Friday, February 7, 2014

Barbers' Fearless Views and Forecasts

Super Bowl Talks

Bruno Mars had a great and memorable concert on February 2, 2014.

One barber said, "the concert had a Soup or Bowl on the side."

Another barber interjected, "Bruno Mars' concert had the Seattle Seahawks' defense as a front act."

My barber countered, "Bruno Mars is Super Bowl's real MVP.  Dedicating his Grammy-winning song to his FILIPINA MOM, he sang it with gusto as the 55,000 live audience and 100 million TV viewers listened with excitement and admiration."

Bruno Mars made the Filipinos proud!


"Wang Wang" in New Jersey's Christie

According to my barber, the latest revelations that the Office of New Jersey Governor Christie ordered the closure of a bridge to punish the Mayor of a City that did not endorse Christie for Governor sounds a lot like the "Wang Wang" mentality that PNoy of the Philippines is trying to eradicate.

It is the opposite of humility and synonymous to arrogance of power.

It is like the Culture of Impunity that Philippine political warlords have abusively exercised for decades if not centuries in the Philippines.


PNoy and Pinoys on 2016

Majority of the barbers are convinced that whatever the Naysayers and Aquino-haters are hoping or wishing, it would still be PNoy's choice in 2016. According to them, PNoy's Presidential candidate will win and be his successor.

It would be history repeating itself.  Cory's choice (Ramos) succeeded her.  PNoy's choice will also succeed him.

The Philippine economy will continue to grow and improve. PNoy's approval and trust rating will continue to be "very good".  Prosecution of corrupt officials will accelerate this year and the year after. Filipinos cannot risk choosing anyone else other than PNoy's recommendation to ensure that his policies and programs of Honesty, Humility, Honor, and Hope will continue.

Who would be PNoy's choice?  Mar Roxas is not a sure bet.  Depending on his ratings in late 2015, he may or may not be PNoy's choice. Roxas may again be forced to give way to someone who has a better chance of winning.

Roxas has the next two years to make an impact.  If PNoy's choice is Roxas, it should not be hard to credit PNoy's success partly to Roxas if he proves himself during these two years as deserving to be the successor.


Peace in Mindanao

We could finally see some peace in Mindanao.  The agreement with the MILF and the participation of most of the members of MNLF in advocating for greater autonomy for Muslims might really generate peace in Mindanao.  This means justice and prosperity would finally come.

The hope is also the elimination of political warlords and the removal of that Culture of Impunity pervading in that part of the world.

Mindanao would really become the "Land of Promise" that our forefathers envisioned.