Personalities

Tita Cory: Leader of EDSA revolution, mother of new hopes for real change

Former President Cory Aquino’s (1933-2009) demise did rend my heart. It did because she hung right there in that node in my political development during the latter 80s. I was an “EDSA baby” as my fanboyism with Marcos then ended when my foray into activism began.

I had a neither-hate-nor-like appreciation of Tita Cory (that was our usual term of endearment for her). The right side of my mind says she did great for the nation for leading the way to freedom without bloodshed. But the left side kept haunting saying that she wasted the dearly-earned freedom by letting oppression prevail (my political officer even argued that the EDSA uprising was not the correct path to change). Ah, I do remember what the national-democratic movement impressed on us at that time: That the Aquino government became the precursor and agent of the CIA-sponsored Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) that caused a great number of human rights violations particularly in the countryside. (This was the mantra that continued to play on in my mind even during the days of my campus paper involvement in college.)

There were surely many criticisms at the Aquino regime that practically outshone raves it had enjoyed from all over the world. Because of my deep involvement in student activism then, I was conditioned to think of the Aquino regime as no better compared to its predecessor. My political officer, while leading a basic course in an ED (our term for education activity), told us that dialectical materialism, or the revolution, for that matter, did not allow for centrism to influence our view of the path to change. It was plainly black or white. Or red or yellow. If you’re for real change, go red. If not, you’re yellow. And if you’re yellow, you’re actually an enemy of change.

I really feel sorry that during those days, I lived apathetic to Tita Cory. At best, though, this was a great disposition despite the flurry of critiques hurled at her at her every utterance of ‘propaganda’ statements. Remember that “mura pa din ang galunggong” statement of hers? In no time did we lash back at her as soon as the price of galunggong went up.

I even had the political reason to join the movement against her, along with her family, because of the Hacienda Luisita case, which had lives lost and which remains untouched for land reform. But I remained apathetic. Perhaps, that noble contribution of Tita Cory (of being our leader for the so-called “EDSA revolution”) served to counterveil or offset my supposed hatred of her administration.

It’s really sad that I had to be frank about my view of her in the wake of her passing away. But I have to admit that while I wrote this post, my eyes turned teary, re-realizing (my own concocted word) the great deed she contributed to our nation, which vindicated the great Ninoy Aquino’s death and pleased our God of history and peace.

Indeed, no one can escape from the fact that despite the failings of her administration, Tita Cory wrote a page for world history and sits beside Gandhi and other greats pushing for peaceful revolutions. May she continue to reign in our hearts of hearts and bring forth newfound hopes for Filipinos for real change. Perhaps her demise says it all: Let’s start working together NOW.

Gloria wants to finish term until 2010

Caught this video on inquirer.net:

The last words that Pres. Arroyo said in her March 4 speech in Malacanang are these:

In the Philippines, there is still due process, rule of law, and utmost respect of the Constitution. This is my pledge as President and Commander-in-Chief.

Indeed, this poses a great challenge to the nascent anti-Gloria movement on how to make her change her mind and leave her office with humility and honor.

Can the Trillanes’ online petition strike while the iron is hot?

While the Arroyo government looks distraught as shown by a political blunder after another (e.g., Erap pardon and whitewashing probes into Glorietta 2 bombing and “cash gifts”), Rebel-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is able to generate gradual support for his call for the resignation of the country’s top two leaders and a snap election within 60 days from their resignation. This is via his online petition that as of this writing (3 Nov. 11:00 am) already has 831 valid virtual signatures (from out of 1225 that includes 291 voided, 41 rejected, and 62 pending approval).

Probably because of the day of the dead and saints when people got disconnected from the Internet that the increase in number of signatories is much less from October 31 to present (average of 70 signatories per day) than from October 27 to October 31 (average of 108 per day). The government must have rejoiced deep inside while appearing contemplatively silent on behalf of the dead.

November 5 will be an ordinary day again and everyone’s going to have a hold on their keyboard. Will the online petition gather much more support from then on at a faster speed while the Arroyo government is beleaguered by corruption issues?

Meanwhile, there’s an offline petition supposedly going on as well. I checked the related blog site and was surprised to know that the signatories include three Senators (including a former one), church leaders (including one Bishop), former military officials, former government officials, media persons (including my favorite Conrado de Quiros), businesspersons, lawyers, and of course, a number of social and political organizations.

However, the blog site has wasted the campaign’s chance to get further traction as its supposed signature form download service is out of function.

Trillanes’ online petition to change government leadership now moderated

Rebel-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s online petition for Pres. Arroyo and VP De Castro to step down and for a snap election to be held thereafter has received moderation from the petition’s author. That move has sent a message to the public that Sen. Trillanes’ camp is serious about its calls. While everyone is free to say his/her piece through this petition, the author has all the prerogative and obligation to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Each signature entry is automatically marked “pending approval”, subject to the author’s screening.

When I blogged about the petition 4 days ago, the number of signatories was 470. I noted a number of observations that point to the petition’s apparent lack of potential to deliver. As of this writing, the number shot up to 1,014, making the petition signed by 136 people each day.

Out of the 1,014 signatories, 289 are marked “line voided”, 23 “signature rejected”, and 12 “pending approval”. A potential nuisance signatory should then be advised not to waste his/her time as his/her entry will definitely not be “counted.” I quoted the word “counted” because the “pasaway'” signature is still added to the total number that is indicated on the total signatures page.

My only beef is that the petition’s total signatures page must be revised so that it also separates the number of signatures marked “line voided” and “signature rejected”. For if we’d deduct these types from the total, it will show that those who subscribe to the petition are 702 only, or 69%.

Lastly, let me tell you that I did sign the petition, not as a “pasaway” but as a social activist disgruntled at the kind of government we don’t deserve to have.

Cybercitizen Trillanes’ call for snap election: Online petition or a poll?

The camp of Rebel-Senator Antonio Trillanes IV must have thought that its oppositionist stance against the present government would create a groundswell through an online petition. The petition is titled Calling for the immediate resignation of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Noli de Castro and for the Holding of Special (“Snap”) Elections within 60 days.

I visited the online petition yesterday morning, which already had 255 signatories. I read the text, which was written in a corporate or legalistic resolution-type of format. It stipulates the grounds for calling for the immediate resignation of the top two leaders of the country.

I was making up my mind whether to sign the petition or not but was disappointed by the turnout of the signatories. Disappointed and at the same time entertained. Not only that. I was also interested to analyze the types of people who have signed up to the petition. So I started to do some tallying based on the 470 signatures thus far collected.

The first 67 signatures appeared serious about their signing until that 68th that must have triggered to morphe the petition into being one similar to an online forum or poll.

Here are some of the results of my quantitative study of the signatures:

  1. A total of 295 or 62% of the signatories gave their complete names (first and last at least). The remaining percent gave either first or nicknames or obviously fraudulent names. I saw several entries pretending to be Gloria Arroyo, Erap Estrada, and Ferdinand Marcos. However, there’s no certainty whether all of the 62% gave their real names, given the factor of fear of being identified.
  2. Out of 359 that gave their addresses, 64% are based in the Philippines (or identify to belong in the Philippines), while 38% are based abroad. Of the 64%, signatories in Metro Manila (111) are outnumbered by those outside the region (122). Likewise, of the 126 signatories abroad, those based in North America are on top, followed by Middle East, Asia, and Europe, in that order.
  3. As suggested by the high number of signatories from abroad, there are 92 (19%) signatories that claimed to be overseas Filipino workers. They are followed by signatories (68 or 14%) that identify themselves as private/concerned citizens/individuals. Only 28 and 10 employees and government/military people, respectively, signed the petition. It is also interesting to note that only 11 youths/students registered their vote for the petition. Likewise, there are five signatories that call themselves friends of victims of Glorietta 2 bombing.
  4. There are 61 organizations cited to be the affiliations of the signatories. It’s very difficult to categorize the organizations as I can’t make out some acronyms and am not familiar with many of them. But it’s interesting to note that a handful of them are known in their own right, namely, Anakbayan, Bagong Tao Movement, Bangon, Couples for Christ, Singles for Christ, Soldiers for Christ, Guardians, Lions Club, NFL (if that means National Federation of Labor), PAGCOR, and Philippine Dental Association.
  5. Fifty-three (53) signers used the petition form’s “Affiliation/Organization/Sector” field to voice their take on the petition as well as the current conjuncture in the Philippine politics. Out of 53, 31 or 58% registered their vote against Sen. Trillanes and the petition (which is funny because a signature is supposed to be a vote for the petition), 32% against the government, and 9% against the Opposition as a whole.
  6. There are several duplicate entries. Likewise, the petition has become a venue for TV network wars. A few of the signatories even questioned the gender of Sen. Trillanes. And there’s even one entry that looked for textmates.

I just wonder whether the Trillanes camp was prepared for the petition cum manifesto or it just ignored the backlash that it might have received. I would say that the exercise is a futile one if we want to be technical about the call, whose targets are Pres. Arroyo, VP De Castro and the Senate (to call for a snap election). For heaven’s sake, even if the petition gathers 2 million signatures, and more than half of the number don’t qualify as such (something like spoiled ballots), it would just be dismissed as a waste of time.

But if the objective is beyond being technical (which seems to be a shame to the online world which looks to the petitiononline.org as a great tool for meaningful changes), meaning political, the exercise passes as an effective one. Online people are given the chance to raise their voice about the bad political situation that the nation is in. Eventually successful or not, the online petition cum manifesto cum poll cum forum is a manifestation of how detestable the political situation has become, to the point of affecting the sanity of our minds.

Meantime, I’m still sleeping on whether to participate in the petition or not. Wonder what name am I going to use (perhaps Superman or Dennis Trillo) and under what representation (perhaps Income-Poor Blogger or Trillanesian)? And most of all, wonder whether I should sign or not, irregardless if it’s for the resignation of Arroyo and De Castro and snap election or just plain show of insanity.

When will Arroyo personally inspect her allegedly corrupt agencies as well?

President Arroyo is so concerned about the security situation in the country that she made a surprise personal inspection at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). It seems to show that her security concern is for Filipinos who go abroad (read: overseas Filipino workers) and foreigners who frequent the country (read: foreign investors).

So much for economic concerns. I wonder if she can show similar empathy for other people about whose security she must be concerned as well? By security, I mean freedom from government practices (graft and corruption, red tape, etc.) that impinge on the people’s rights. I’m pretty sure she is also concerned about them. I then ask: When is President Arroyo going to do on-the-spot personal inspections at the agencies allegedly committing systematic malpractices? Can she do so at the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, at the very least?

I don’t disagree that foreign investments and OFW remittances bring about economic development in the country. But don’t the hapless small rural producers do so as well? Madame President, be fair enough. Inspect your corruption-ridden agencies as well. Don’t be too concerned about people who suddently die from accidents like the Glorietta 2 blast. Think also of people who slowly die because of poverty, because of corruption and lack of political will in government.

(Part 2) White paper: Behind CARP ‘pump-priming’ projects

My bad. It took me three days to publish here the second and last part of the expose/white paper about a corruption involving DAR top officials. The first part is here. Now enjoy reading the part two, as follows:

SARO Fiasco, Fake NCAs and Advance Commissions – Part II

AS a continuation to the P500 million SARO fiasco, the lazy bugs (with the “s”) in DBM shared to our DAR spiders (again with the “s”) more damning revelations of SAROs and NCAs proliferating around supposedly for CARP pump-priming projects. These SAROs and NCAs were dangled to LGUs and favored contractors who would agree to provide our mafias “advance commissions”.

According to our Spiders, aside from the SARO E-06-10436 (P500M) stated in an earlier paper, another SARO was issued on December 29, 2006 (SARO No. E-06-10435) worth P347M broken down as P197M for MOOE and P150M for Capital Outlays. A Notice of Cash Allocation (NCA-BMB-E-07-0000395) for P150 Million was subsequently issued. Curiously, based on documents at hand, there were two sets of “annexes” with different sites of project implementation using the same amount of P150M and referring to the same NCA with DBM barcode encryption.

This prompted then FMAO Use to request assistance from S! ec Andaya (DBM) in clarifying the authenticity of the SAROs, NCAs, and “annexes”. Walang kopya si Usec? Would this mean that the two mafias by-passed the FMAO and lobbied directly with the DBM for the SAROs, NCAs? One thing is definite here; all communications of Mr. Work in Progress and Mr. Bigote to the DBM used the letterheads of DAR which is very unusual as it should be the PARC officials, using PARC letterhead, who are to communicate with DBM on CARP funds as per official protocol.

The DBM lazy bugs were baffled on the many instances of double letters, double project sites, and double SAROs that they would have to consult their ophthalmologist as they were having double vision. Even our eight-eyed spiders were mystified that they made some sleuthing on how the mafia operates in our department.

Here’s how the mafia operates, as seen from the cobwebs.

ARMM mafia don Mr. Work in Progress asks the boss of our Lazy Bugs to immediately release SARO or NCA for “much needed” CARP pump-priming projects. He provides a copy to PARC, and secretly slips another copy to the CL Mafia boss, headed by Mr. Nite. Boss Nite, orders his top hammer, Mr. Bigote and some close frat-brod operators to shop for “willing” LGU executives and contractors in Region 3 and Region 4A for the supposed implementation of pump-priming projects.

From the SAROs and NCAs, t he ARMM mafia boss will be assured of fund allocation for some towns in ARMM (i.e. millions for the Municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao) plus a 20%-30% commission from all the operations of the CL Mafia group in the agreed “pump-priming areas”. The CL Mafia group would retain another 40% of the total project cost. Only 30%-40% of the “pump-priming programs” are actual implementation focusing on road RE-GRAVELLING under “Farm-to-Market Roads (FMR)”. Mas malaki kasi ang kikitain sa regravelling at madaling ilusot sa COA. Halos lahat ng money-making racket sa DAR at DA ay nasa road rehab, improvement at regravelling. Cost of each FMR projects as itemized by Mr. Work in Progress, Mr. Nite and Mr. Bigote ranges from P5million to P30 million, depending on the willingness of the LGU and contractor on such arrangement.

According to the lazy bugs of DBM, Sec Andaya has been informed last Friday on the mafia operations in the department but showed no interest on pursuing an investigation on the proliferation of fake SAROs, NCAs, annexes of project sites, saying: “problema nila SNCP yan”.

May kinalaman kaya si Sec Andaya dito? O may mas higit pang mataas na opisyal na sangkot dito? The lazy bugs suddenly hid under the bed.

(Part 1) White paper: Behind CARP ‘pump-priming’ projects

This is my first time to publish over my blog “white papers” I’m receiving over email. What follows is one of two related white papers I’ve received from Timone Tumba (what an anonymous name) regarding alleged corruption at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) involving top officials. I understand that it is the white paper’s purpose to catch the attention of legislators and concerned authorities.

Being a concerned citizen and an advocate of authentic agrarian reform, I think that there may be truth in the expose and should therefore warrant the public’s attention. So, here’s the text of the white paper. Do note that I didn’t use specific names to save me from possible incrimination.

P500M SARO scramble and bungled money-making operations reveals Mafia-like operations in DAR

20 September 2007

Two separate letters to the DBM from our top officials would later reveal a modus operandi being employed by mafiosos in DAR to suck out CARP funds in the guise of improving the lives of agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Both letters were dated and sent on the same day, January 30, 2007. One letter signed by Mr. Work in Progress for his penchant use of “its work in progress” whenever confronted with various issues by the media, requested for the release of National Cash Allotment or NCA for pump priming projects under CARP, while another letter was signed by Mr. Bigote, requesting for the release of Special Allotment Release Order or SARO also for the same pump priming projects under CARP.

The letter of Mr. Bigote has an attached list of project areas for the implementation of the pump priming projects with corresponding amount of project cost. Notably, the P500 million, as per Mr. Bigote’s long list, would be utilized entirely for selected municipalities in Region 4-A and two municipalities in Bulacan.

The SARO No. E-06-10436 with an amount of P500 million was actually issued on December 28, 2006 by the Department of Budget and Management for the purpose of “To cover requirements of Pump-Priming projects under CARP” and charged against the general automatic appropriations for RA 6657 and EO 228.

According to our lazy bugs in DBM, a copy of the SARO No. E-06-10436 was already released to DAR in mid-January and that DBM was surprise to receive two letters of the same date from Mr. Work-in-Progress and Mr. Bigote. “Nag-kukurutan na naman siguro dyan sa department nyo” surmised the lazy bug.

What the DBM insects doesn’t know are the brewing conflicts from amongst the big time mafiosos in our department. There are two groups of mafiosos in our midst. The first group is identified with Mr. Work in Progress (or the ARMM mafia) and the other one headed by Mr. Nite (or the CL mafia). Mr. Bigote is identified with the CL mafia.

At the beginning of the SARO fiasco, Mr. Bigote tried to snatch the money allocated under SARO from the ARMM mafia, and overeagerly followed up with the DBM to have it released immediately to the DAR Region 4A in which he is the Regional Director. Mr. Bigote even dangled the SARO No. E-06-10436 with his favorite town mayors in Rizal and favored contractor saying “its in the bag!”.

But unknown to Mr. Bigote, our quicker Mr. Work in Progress has already got hold of the money in February and as of March 2007 has already sent P200 million to ARMM, P200 million to different politicos under the Lakas-CMD-UMDJ and Kampi, and P100 million as personal reward! Teka, pang pump-priming ng CARP projects yan ah…hoy!

Meanwhile in the municipalities of Teresa, Baras, and Tanay, all in Rizal province, the favored contractor (MJP Construction) started working on the “regravelling” project at the prodding of the CL mafia, the total amount involved is a staggering P 47 million! And that’s in three barangays alone!

However, in a PARC Memorandum signed by a Director dated June 14, 2007 for Mr. Bigote showed that the SARO E-06-10436 has already been programmed for priority projects NATIONWIDE, including Region 4A and that his long list are not included in the programmed projects. Naloko na. Paano na ngayon mababayaran ang contractor, eh nagpa-bidding pa naman ang DAR region 4A. Paano na mga komisyon?

The DBM lazy bug told us that a letter was sent on August 16, 2007 by the MJP Construction to Secretary Andaya seeking for the release of funds representing the amounts which they were made to believe were covered by CARP priority programs and SARO E-06-10436. The local mayors of Rizal were starting to howl on the failed project promises of DAR.

Sensing that the situation is getting out of hand, Mr. Work in Progress reached out to the CL Mafia to put their acts together and immediately settle money matters for contracted construction companies and appease the municipal mayors. Mr. Nite was appointed OIC for FMAO, another to head the Field Operations, and Mr. Bigote as OIC Asec for Operations.

Teka, ito kaya ang dahilan kung bakit nagresign si ang isang undersecretary?

The formula is for Mr. Work in Progress to provide open opportunities for more funding (meaning more opportunity for kurakots) and the CL mafia to do the dirty work. The CL mafia will support Mr. Work in Progress, in return the CL mafia will be given more power and greater access to the department funds.

“In three years wala na tayo dito, sabayan na natin ang nasa taas”, where the words of the don from the ARMM mafia, according to the insects who bugged the meeting.

On August 17, 2007, Mr. Work in Progress sent another formal letter to the DBM Secretary requesting for P750 million allocation again for pump priming the CARP projects. This time no parallel letter was sent to DBM from the CL Mafia.

Mababayaran na rin kaya ang contractor! Mapapakalma na kaya ang mga Mayor? Magkakatotoo na rin ba ang komisyon? Pero teka, hindi ba’t dapat imbestigahan ang mga pandarambong na ito? Kabang yaman ito ng bansa, for DAR program implementation!

Tinatawagan po namin ang mga kakampi ng kabutihan at mga kalaban ng kasamaan…tinatawagan namin ang senado, ang kongreso, ang PAGC, ang Ombudsman, ang Sandiganbayan, ang sambayanan!

Kung may ZTE controversy, SARO hullabaloo at mga ghost o overpriced projects naman sa DAR.

Bring back the lost glory, dignity and credibility of our Department; we owe it to the millions of Filipino farmers we vowed to serve.

Abangan ang susunod pang mga katarantaduhan ng mga mafia…

WikiPilipinas founder wants knowledge digitized for posterity’s sake

Geez, I almost forgot to make a report about my attendance in Wikipilipinas’ meet with Pinoy bloggers last August 31 at Marina Seafood Restaurant, Pasay City.

I need to blog about it before my learnings and thoughts from that event are brought into oblivion. I wish that I had a digital/mp3 recorder so that I could catch fine details of the wisdom of persons I am listening to. One such person was Gus Vibal, publisher of Filipiniana.net and founder of WikiPilipinas.

Before the meeting (or was it a merely a forum?) started at approximately 8pm, bloggers were first asked to indulge in the buffet-style dinner courtesy of WikiPilipinas. I’m no food epicurean (although I was a bit hungry when I arrived at the restaurant around 7pm), so I didn’t feel any thrill in the food as what other bloggers must have had. I was more interested to know more about the guy who received rants and raves for two bold undertakings, an online Filipiniana and a community-based online Philippine encyclopedia called WikiPilipinas. And I was fortunate to have been seated near him. He shook hands with me and upon learning about my blog (this blog), he said matter-of-factly that he read me write something about him. (Huh? I swear that I didn’t mention his name in my first post about Wikipilipinas. I should feel guilty about it, then.)

Inside the dim 20-sq. m. room enclosed by glass walls stood Vibal who started off with a great deal of information about himself. Unfortunately, I could only remember a few but important bits of it. He had studied, lived, and worked in New York. Perhaps inspired by the expertise of his father, Vibal was exposed to the world of publishing, not the traditional but the digital one. He narrated that once he was employed by a digital publishing firm that tasked him to produce CDROM-based computer books at 2,000 CDs per year. If I’m not mistaken, that triggered his propensity for collecting and digitizing published or unpublished works, particularly those of the remote past, which are likely to become extinct and totally forgotten come the next generations. His is a combination of the passion of archeologists and historiographers.

Instead of pursuing his real estate business, Vibal chose to come back to the Philippines and found Filipiniana.net in September last year and then, barely a year later today, WikiPilipinas.org. He said that even his father and his colleagues at Vibal Publishing House did not make out what he was talking about. They wondered what business model the young Vibal was following. Then was the time when he told them that one can actually earn much for things he/she gives out for free. Talking about Google.

Vibal became more popular for the latter project than the former. Credit that to the press, who tried to relate his undertakings to the controversy that embroiled the Vibals to the errors-ridden public textbooks, as well as bloggers and Wikipedians who made public their divergent views about the effort.

Perhaps in his 40s (sorry Gus, if I’m mistaken), the man honestly sounded like a know-it-all to me at first. But as soon as I listened to him until the end of his talk, I thought that his cogency and wisdom were enough to convince me of his noble intention with his endeavors. He was talking about things that only ICT enthusiasts and activists would know: open content, the long tail, free software, collaboration, etc. But more than that, Vibal was able to infuse publishing matters into the digital world, or the other way around. He found a “spiritual brother” in me, to use his term.

I think that he was able to inspire the bloggers that night. “Publish or perish. One who writes controls the point of view,” he said in his presentation. And that explains why he has put up Wikipilipinas. He wants an online knowledge-base that Filipinos use and contribute to at the same time. He doesn’t want it to look and sound like an academic encyclopedia; he wants it “hip and free.”

Like I already said, I began to realize the importance of his efforts at Wikipilipinas. His capable team seems to enjoy the work. And they should be much more inspired because more and more people rave about it, come to the site, and contribute.

However, I still think that Wikipilipinas, although trying to be a different fruit (apple or orange?), has just created a competition with Wikipedia and other collaborative projects there are. And I wonder how both entities have agreed on unnecessary duplication, much less confusing currency, of information that both publish.

In the meantime, count me in, as being one of those who wish the hip-and-free encyclopedia the success it deserves. To support both “wikips”, I’ll treat them differently. If the information I want is related to the Philippines, I’ll go to WikiPilipinas (chances are, the information are culled from Wikipedia). If I’m not satisfied with the information, I’ll try to consult Wikipedia and see how I can help “synchronize” the two. Otherwise, Wikipedia is my friend for most stuff I’d like to know more about.

I’ll register with Wikipilipinas and try to help develop content in my own capacity. And, oh, who is that lady Mindy who blogs for Wikipilipinas? Is there a real person behind the beauteous avatar? I’d like to know.

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Do we need a separate agency for ICT?

Senator Loren Legarda is pushing for the creation of a distinct department called Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). Why? Based on inquirer.net’s report, the said department is tasked to “set government policies (on ICT) and oversee government’s IT projects.”

Legarda implied that DICT reflects the Philippines’ keeping up with the digital age. “Any forward-looking Filipino would support this bill. Only those living in the Stone Age would likely be against it,” inquirer.net quoted her as saying.

I haven’t seen a copy of the bill she mentioned (anyone?) for me to give a more informed reaction. It has not yet been filed with any Senate Committee, so it may be a protocol that the public won’t have access to it yet.

But I can’t help but say my initial piece.

Yes, I’m living in the “Stone Age”, this age when government is composed of leaders that are mostly hard as stone, without any compunction for their misdeeds and without any concrete and lasting actions to the sorry state of the society. I’m living in a “Stone Age” because ICT has so been commercialized that super-profit-driven entities engage in politics to get what they want. The latest controversy that proves this is the NBN deal. In the end, ICT as it is utilized now has not addressed the digital divide.

Creating a separate agency just to craft policies and oversee IT projects is a misplaced move. It’s like paying Hercules a huge sum of money if he can mash a tomato. A separate agency means that it is going to last for decades and is as fat as any other agency. And that contradicts two principles associated to ICT: efficiency and effectiveness.

I still push for a relatively autonomous Commission (a bit like Commission on Human Rights and COMELEC), with its lean and mean structure and critical engagement with concerned sectors, including the civil society.  The tasks of the Commission should be:

  1. Craft an ICT Roadmap for the Philippines in honest-to-goodness consultation with concerned stakeholders, including civil society;
  2. Engage the government to adopt the Roadmap, so long as it is embraced by a broad network of stakeholders, to come up with ICT policies and allot necessary funds for it to come to fruition;
  3. Study proposals on ICT and recommend ones in accordance with the Roadmap;
  4. Monitor and oversee government’s ICT projects;
  5. Related to #1, lead and coordinate the re-engineering of the ICT systems of all agencies, so that they are not only inter-operating efficiently but are also providing sound ICT-facilitated services to their respective target audiences or beneficiaries.

To help rid the Commission of politics–well relatively–it should be composed of people who truly represent the ICT profession with unquestionable track record in the industry and without any affiliation to commercial interests.  There should be mechanisms that officially and regularly engage a gamut of ICT stakeholders in various respects, such as policy formulation and project monitoring and evaluation.

The Commission  I am thinking of is not the Commission that was created in 2004.  But we can learn a lot from the way the CICT operated since then, including the politics that defined its fate, which proves how shallow government’s treatment of ICT is.

But I’m not closing doors on Senator Loren. I’m still interested to see the proposed bill and reconsider my thoughts. Likewise, I agree with her that inputs from all parties concerned are very important. I’d better agitate my colleagues in Bukas to brace themselves for this very important engagement.