Monday, January 30, 2012

Philippine Senate Passes Cybercrime Prevention Act

In a press statement, Senator Edgardo J. Angara announced that the Philippine Senate approved upon third reading the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Senate Bill No. 2796).

Angara filed SB2796 which establishes a legal framework for the investigation, apprehension and prosecution of cybercriminals.

The approval of the Cybercrime Prevention Act may be considered long overdue by Filipino netizens who have been victims of criminal activities perpetrated online.  Some of the most recent scandals that highlighted the need for a cybercrime bill was the recent release of sex videos of slain actor Ramgen Revilla and his girlfiend, Janelle Manahan.

In previous years, there has been a proliferation of private sex videos and outright pornographic videos released over the internet.

By designating which legal authorities are responsible and appropriating P50 million for its implementation, the measure protects Filipino Web-surfers from such Internet-related crimes as online theft, fraud, hacking, cyber-squatting and child pornography.

The bill also provides for the creation of new government agencies such as the Office of Cybercrime under the Department of Justice (DOJ); a National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) under the Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-ICTO); and a National Cybersecurity Coordinating Council (NCCC) under the Office of the President.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act is one of the triad of ICT measures authored by Angara and being pushed by COMSTE in support among other things for the Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry in the country.

Other ICT-related measures pending in the Senate are the Data Privacy Act and the measure creating a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Billboard Advertiser HARASSED by the MMDA

Most motorists dread being flagged down by an MMDA Traffic Officer for one offense or another.  

This is usually the ordinary citizen/motorist's introduction to bribery or extortion involving government functionaries and is probably a more prevalent source of corruption.

Such opportunities for bribery/extortion is usually aided by vague interpretations of traffic rules, non-standard traffic signs, faulty placement of traffic signs, manipulated traffic signals, and vague interpretations of traffic rules -- such as "swerving".

The hapless motorist/citizen who encounters such a ruse for the first time often eagerly hands over a few hundred bucks just to avoid the hassle of having to settle the supposed traffic violation.

On any regular day, the more common source of bribes are Public Utility Vehicles -- buses, jeeps, FX's, and terminal to terminal vehicles.  These regulars often pay for MMDA Officers to use a street corner or stretch of road as a virtual terminal -- contributing to traffic congestion even on wide stretches of road.

Now, the thing is, this kind of racket only pays so much and the money supposedly kick-up stairs to a presumed "syndicate" may often be just a small fraction of the entire take.

What people would imagine to be bigger and more direct source of racket money would probably involve the MMDA's crack down on Billboard Advertisers.  

The elements of a racket are there: Vague interpretations of laws, questionable jurisdiction and an inconsistent application of "supposed regulations" across the industry.

The thing is, not all outdoor advertisers get the loving eyes of the MMDA and in fact, some outdoor advertisers get harassed even after it is proven that they've complied with all the rules that regulate their industry.

One such outdoor billboard advertiser is up in arms over the MMDA's recent declaration in newspapers that it would continue to tear down billboards despite a court ruling preventing them from doing so.

Ever Corporation has been reduced to pleading with the MMDA to show respect for a court ruling telling them not to touch their billboards.

Whenver the MMDA takes down a billboard, it costs the outdoor advertiser a whole heap of money -- in terms of income lost as well as penalties that it will have to pay for breaching their contract with the client.

MMDA officials were quoted in several newspapers questioning the decision of Pasay City Judge Divina Gracia Lopez barring them removing the billboards of Ever Corporation.

Officials of the agency are reportedly threatening Judge Lopez with an administrative complaint for gross ignorance of the law.

An added insult to the judge is MMDA's alleged avowal to carry on with its planned campaign against billboards despite the court’s order.

Ever Corporation General Manager Freddie Arlantico is now pleading with the MMDA to just follow the law and respect the court order barring it from disrupting the company's legitimate business activity.

Arlantico claims his company has been in compliance of the Additional Rules and Regulations (ARR) covering Signs and Signboards, introduced by the DPWH in 2007 in the wake of Typhoon Milenyo.

Upon experiencing unauthorized dismantling by the MMDA, Ever Corporation petitioned Judge Lopez for legal protection for its more than 100 billboard structures. In issuing the injunction order, Judge Lopez found Ever to have been legally conducting its advertising business, noting that the company possessed the requisite permits stipulated in the ARR.

Arlantico observes though, that notwithstanding the injunction, the outdoor advertising industry remains at the mercy of the MMDA.

Part of a statement from Ever Corporation states what seems to be harassment:
“Our industry has repeatedly been accused by the MMDA of not following the law,” according to Atty. Troy Banez, Executive Director of industry association Outdoor Media Advocacy Group (OMAG). “Yet, when we show the MMDA how we have complied with the law – no less than the DPWH’s ARR – they still put down our billboard structures on dubious grounds. Worse, the MMDA now even wants to go after a judge who recognizes the law and the fact that we are following it.” 
OMAG reports that some billboard operators have been practically bullied by the MMDA into compromising provisions of the law. To which OMAG states that “Neither the MMDA nor billboard operators have the right and authority to amend or compromise the law. That is precisely the problem. MMDA believes that it can independently promulgate its own rules and regulations. The Supreme Court has, time and again, declared that the MMDA does not have legislative, let alone, police power.” 
According to OMAG, all they want is to promote the survival of the outdoor advertising industry, in compliance with established laws, which no mere agency can try to subvert.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bonfire at RCBC Securities: Shenanigans going all the way to the top?

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite columns in the Philippine Daily Inquirer came out with this juicy morsel:
Blacklisted Lady
A female sales agent of RCBC Securities—said to have been a rainmaker of this brokerage house for about a decade—is now facing criminal charges for questionable transactions with her own personal clients.  
Based on a regulatory filing, RCBC Securities has also asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to blacklist the agent, Mary Grace “MG” Villafria Valbuena, on the back of “strong documentary evidence” culled by the brokerage. 
MG—sued by her employer for “falsification” of commercial documents—was allegedly able to divert investments made by high networth clients to another account. In some cases, she even issued fraudulent receipts to unsuspecting investors. 
An official estimate of the damage was only about P80 million, although the Ayala trading floor is abuzz with talks that the amount was much higher. 
However, what appears to be an open and shut case of corruption in the corporate world is actually just the veneer.  The story actually continues and outlines possible directions point all the way to the top:
Rogue trader with management’s blessings?  
The supposed rogue trader who was accused by RCBC Securities of running off with a huge sum of clients’ money seems to be ready to turn the tables on her accuser. 
According to our source, the brokerage firm’s former “rainmaker”—Mary Grace Valbuena—is all set to spill the beans on her former superiors, including what her camp claims was the sanctioned use of a scheme where all clients’ stock transactions were coursed through a single trading account that was managed solely at her discretion. 
Our source added that the operation was running for several years already and was supposedly approved and encouraged by Valbuena’s superiors since the arrangement was “mutually beneficial.”
“Her activities as a stockbroker practically paid for all the salaries of the brokerage firm’s employees,” the source said, who added that Valbuena was ready to come out with documentary evidence to prove her claims. “It goes all the way to the top.” 
So will the issue be settled quietly or will we see more skeletons coming out of the brokerage firm’s closet? Abangan.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Impeachment: The Process Is More Important Than The Outcome

Or more exactly, it is how all parties stick to the rules that are supposed to guide the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

After watching the first few days of the impeachment trial, I've come across some pretty lame descriptions of what should be a serious deliberation over facts and laws.  Some described the developments in the impeachment trial in terms more appropriate to the sport of basketball or boxing.  But what is more disturbing is that some observers have given up any pretense of being neutral and objective, and have taken to cheering or booing for one side or another.

What it all looks like is a bunch of squatters egging on two people who've decided to slug it out in the middle of the "looban".

Years ago, in the Senate, one senator observed that elections in the US and Europe often terminated with the losers openly declaring support for the winning party or personality.  In the Philippines, he observed, the losing party always declares himself cheated and brands the victor a cheater.

Now, considering all of this, I think things are the way they are in the Philippines because most people are ignorant or doubtful of the rules that guide processes such as impeachment trials and elections.  What most probably understand better are fight analogies, where there should be a winner and a loser,

Friday, January 06, 2012

#ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines? Consider the timing. #Sendong #CompostelaLandslide #RamGenSexVideo

Nevermind that the slogan is a copy of "Its more fun in Switzerland".
Let's ask, "Is it really more fun in the Philippines"
Any slogan will do as long as the product lives up to it.
As the usual suspects in the Philippine Twittersphere stoked excitement over the Philippine Department of Tourism's new slogan, I was apologizing to one of my closest friends for having made an inappropriate joke at an inappropriate time in the company of people we hardly know.

If it weren't for his forgiving nature and patience, I guess I would have landed in the ICU several times by now  because:

1) This is not the first time I made that mistake with him. 
2) He knows Kung-Fu and I am a pretty big, slow moving punching target.

One point he did make that crystallizes what I want to say about the Department of Tourism's slogan "It's More Fun in the Philippines" is appropriateness.

We all know that Tropical Storm Sendong struck Cagayan De Oro, Iligan City, and other areas in Mindanao the week before Christmas.  About 1,500 people were killed by flash floods and until today, there are probably hundreds of families who are still looking for missing loved ones.  At least twenty thousand people are still suffering in evacuation centers, with a leptos pirosis outbreak killing a number of them.

Then, just yesterday, a landslide in a mining town in Compostela Valley killed 25 people and left about a hundred people missing.

Oh and before it escapes out attention because we are having "Fun in the Philippines":
A former Australian soldier kidnapped last month in Mindanao is seen pleading for his life in a video sent to his family and urging the Philippines and Australia to raise a $2-million ransom being demanded by his captors. 
The video of 53-year-old Warren Richard Rodwell, along with four photographs showing him in handcuffs and apparently wounded in the right hand, were mailed to his Filipino wife before Christmas, police officials said.

Before this guy was kidnapped, we also had other foreigners kidnapped in the Philippines -- including 3 workers of the International Red Cross.

Anyway, I raised the issue of appropriateness of #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines on twitter and I was told that the launch had already been moved back because of Sendong.
BBDO Guerrero has won the contract for the Philippines' tourism branding campaign, besting 7 other marketing and advertising companies, but the company and the government will delay the launch as the country deals with the effects of Tropical Storm Sendong. 
"Theme reveal will have to wait for a more opportune time in early January,'' Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said in a mobile phone text message, citing the deaths and devastation wrought by Sendong in Northern Mindanao and parts of the Visayas. 
The contract covers all media at home and abroad, including social media.
But then again, when would be the APPROPRIATE TIME? Really.

I think, the appropriate time for coming up with a slogan is WHEN the product can meet the expectations built up for it and NOT BEFORE.

This engrossment over slogans masks the sheer lack of actual preparation in terms of actual tourism infrastructure that will, indeed, make it MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES.

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