Politics

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.

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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.

Proposed FOSS Bill in a stiff battle: What’s to be done?

Amidst yesterday’s mass protests in Burma and Philippine Senate’s grilling of COMELEC Chair Abalos and former NEDA chief Neri about the NBN/ZTE controversy, a roundtable discussion about Bayan Muna’s proposed FOSS Act Bill took place in UP’s College of Law. And it’s hard to tell whether the bill warrants the policymakers’ attention, at least at this point in time.

I came to the forum impressed. Nuh, it had no relation to the forum but was about the Malcolm building, which gave me the eerie feeling of being in a maze, much less a haunted place. High ceilings, dim corners, almost no signages anywhere, and hidden doors. I was also impressed by the setup of the Sta. Ana Room (is it UP Law’s typical classroom setup?) with its rising rows of seats.

The forum was well-attended. It was SRO even. Here’s the cheat sheet: A throng of students of Prof. JJ Dissini (and of Prof. Dizon, too?) were there, one of whom told my seat mate that their attendance in there was not mandatory but ‘highly encouraged.’ The students were scattered around the place, some of whom maximized the time for other concerns. Perhaps they were dividing attention to the forum’s topic and their reviewing for their finals next month?

Now, to the topic: Mandating the use of free and open source software (FOSS) in government agencies and encouraging private and public sectors to use FOSS. Rep. Ted Casiño graced the forum by explaining the Bill to the attendees. He presented the Bill’s main features and benefits:

Proposed FOSS Bill (RA 1716)

Main Features

  1. It declares as state policy the use of open source software products developed by Filipinos (Sec. 2);
  2. It defines open standards and FOSS and mandates the government to recognize licenses in this area (Sec. 3,4,5,6);
  3. It mandates the use of open standards and FOSS in the public sector, except in extraordinary circumstances as determined by public hearing (Sec. 5, 6, 7);
  4. It gives preference for Filipino-owned ICT companies in the government’s procurement of FOSS goods and services (Sec. 8);
  5. In the private sector, the bill promotes the use of FOSS and open standards through non-fiscal incentives (Sec. 10);
  6. It promotes FOSS and opens standards in educational institutions and prohibits schools from offering certification programs exclusively for proprietary software (Sec. 9);
  7. It bans the patenting of software (Sec. 11);
  8. It mandates the CICT to oversee the law’s implementation and creates the Office on FOSS Migration as an attached agency to ensure this (Sec. 13, 14, 15);
  9. It sets targets for FOSS migration for the first five years of the Act’s implementations (Sec. 13).

Benefits

  1. Guard the people’s right to access public information;
  2. Lower the overall cost of ICT in the public and private sectors;
  3. Make IT more accessible to a greater number of users;
  4. Unlock the potential and encourage the development of a self-reliant, genuinely Filipino IT industry; and,
  5. Provide greater security for highly sensitive government and private information systems.

To explain the concept of FOSS to the uninitiated, the Congressman unleashed his favorite analogy: Pinakbet. The name is not copyrighted and the recipe is in the public domain. People are not prohibited to modify the recipe to come up with their own versions of Pinakbet. Had the Pinakbet been copyrighted, pinakbet would not be popular. And to prove the feasibility of FOSS, he mentioned Venezuela as among the countries that mandated FOSS in government.

Towards the end of his talk, Rep. Casiño admitted that the FOSS Act Bill has been in a stiff battle. In fact, in the previous Congress, only three legislators expressed support of the bill. It underwent only one hearing and was overtaken by events. This Congress, Bayan Muna wanted to breathe a new life to it by refiling it as House Bill 1716. He further told the attendees that the Congress itself has been a captive market for Microsoft, because the latter has been able to set up an E-learning center in Congress and provided free laptops (?) to few congresspersons. Although, he couldn’t see why government cannot see the light. “My entire office has gone open source already. The Supreme Court already uses OpenOffice, and so does the DOJ,” he enthused. Finally, he said that there’s nothing wrong with free choice so long as it is an informed one.

The Congressman had to leave immediately after his talk. But he left behind him his Chief of Staff, Marco Polo (?), whom he assigned to answer questions for him during an open forum afterwards. Two lawyers gave their reactions to the bill. Atty. Dizon, I understand the Bill’s consultant, gave his own take about the positive aspects of the bill, namely: a) developing local capacity and industry, b) reducing imports, conserving foreign exchange, c) enhancing national security, d) reducing copyright infringement, e) enabling localization, f) increasing competition, g) access to information, and h) encouraging cooperation.

Atty. Dizon further gave his comments. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make out all of what he said but the ones that I picked up were that the bill: a) is aggressive in policy and targets, b) has not elaborated further on the definition of FOSS, and, c) must not merely focus on the TCO side but on the technology transfer and access to know-how. Then, it was Atty. Dissini’s turn to speak. He seemed to suggest that FOSS must be subjected to the marketplace. If FOSS is not yet ready for the market and government gives special treatment of it, then we’re in for a big trouble in the end. FOSS must be able to compete with the proprietary softwares in terms of companies that are ready to provide FOSS services.

At the open forum, Prof. Feria was the first one to give his view of the bill. He feared that the bill will fail just because there is not enough infrastructure to support the adoption of FOSS. FMA’s Al Alegre agreed with Prof. Feria and further advised that to make sure that we won’t practicaly lose at the end, we may either come up with a separate bill on the bill’s ‘winnable’ aspects or change the bill so that it softens on the radical aspects and highlights the acceptable ones. He specified ‘open standards and open formats’ as two of these aspects. He also advised that the Bill consider the eco-system that currently prevails as far as softwares and ICT are concerned.

A director from a government-owned corporation that provides ICT services to government services (I didn’t get the names) described the bill as “a loaded gun poked on a child.” He claimed that the Bill misses out on the realities. He said that government lacks the mechanisms for successful ICT projects as well as the expertise to sustain them. It’s not enough that you provide softwares without giving consideration of support. His point was basically echoed by another lady who claimed to be a “partner” of Microsoft and Oracle and an open source advocate herself. (I think that she said that she’s been involved in POSITIVE [Philippine Open Source Initiative] that aims to promote open source technologies in institutions and key industries. She said that there are already 240 schools that have adopted open source in various ways.)

That lady sounded like mouthpiece of the proprietary software world, despite her saying that she’s an open source advocate and that FOSS and proprietary softwares can co-exist. She said that people should be given a free choice particularly in situations when proprietary solutions are better than open source ones. She also said that mandating FOSS will kill the software industry. I found her funny by saying that government cannot automatically choose FOSS because it’s a (product) brand, a no-no in the procurement process. What?

I was surprised by the apparent unpreparedness of the Rep. Casino’s Chief of Staff to react to the points raised. He could only participate or engage in the discussion through general statements and an assurance that the points raised by the participants will be considered. Also, when I asked him if BM will get prepared during Congress hearings through feasibility studies, he did not answer directly. He just said that Cong. Casino will be prepared to face the Congressmen. When Al asked him how many Congressmen have signified support for the bill, he initially said that the Bill is not actually difficult to seek supporters as it “crosses party lines”, and later said there are 10 (in contrast to 3 that Casino was quoted by inquirer.net). When further pushed to specify the names, he could not do so except to name Peter Cayetano and Chiz Escudero, who are now Senators themselves. I could only imagine that four of the 10 supporters are representatives from Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Anakpawis. I think that the Bill, as it is today, is more acceptable under a more democratic (or socialist) government, or when government leaders truly espouse national sovereignty and people-based development.

Indeed, the proposed Bill, with all its noble intentions, will be in a very stiff battle in Congress. If Bayan Muna will not consider the comments from both the progressives who are not necessarily radical and techies who are not necessarily conservative or close-minded, the Bill will just become a losing battle. For the first type, has BM really consulted those outside its own network? For the second type, has BM tried to rub elbows with “Microsoft-friendly” software developers and user communities?

As the bill touches on highly ideological and theoretical concepts, BM must exhaust all means to debate with those with contending views.

I think that it would be better if Bayan Muna goes back to the drawing board and reflects: Are we really doing a great service to FOSS by not letting it fail in the end? I’m an out-and-out FOSS advocate (I bash Windows at the slightest opportunity) so I don’t want my FOSS advocacy, our FOSS advocacy, to fail. After all, our advocacies are not only confined at the halls of Congress. With our without the bill, we need to increase the FOSS tribe down to the grassroots level. And I’m sure that if there’s critical mass to push for FOSS, the FOSS bill, with all the necessary changes to it, will win hands down.

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