Category: blogs

Draconian measure

By Bong Austero

On the same week that people of a certain age went into reflection mode to remember the horrors that befell this country 40 years ago, the President of the Republic signed the Cybercrime Prevention Law.

On the same week that people swore “never again” as they relived the dark years of the dictatorship when citizens were denied civil liberties—when freedom of expression was reduced to a theoretical concept that people pined for because speaking about or criticizing the excesses of government could mean summary execution or detention—the electronic version of martial law went into effect in the country.

How did this happen in a country that is supposed to be a bastion of democracy and at a time when the prevailing order rose to power on the strength of its much avowed defense of civil liberties?

The law sneaked through both houses of Congress surreptitiously.

Netizens and civil rights activists were caught flatfooted —they, along with everyone else in this country, simply woke up middle of last week to learn that their right to privacy has been whittled down. Worse, one can now be charged with a crime called electronic libel, which carries a penalty more onerous than ordinary libel. Under our current penal code, a writer, editor, or publisher who is found guilty of ordinary libel could be meted out a jail term of six months and one day to four years and two months. Thanks to the new cybercrime law, anyone who makes a comment in Facebook or Twitter or on a blog that is deemed libelous could be jailed for a minimum of six years and one day up to 12 years. This makes the person ineligible for parole since the minimum penalty is beyond six months. The proponents of the new law have made sure that anyone who would be convicted of the crime of electronic libel would have to serve a jail term.

This happened under the reign of the son of the mother of democracy in this country.

I am at a loss as to how something like the cybercrime law could be passed into law given this administration’s supposed staunch commitment to upholding civil liberties. The President is supposed to be surrounded by people who know better when it comes to these matters—there are quite a number of cabinet secretaries who are active netizens; for instance, Secretary Ricky Carandang and Undersecretary Manolo Quezon used to be very active bloggers. Most Cabinet members use Facebook and Twitter a lot. In fact, this government has practically endorsed the use of social networking sites as a means for citizens to get updated on government advisories during calamities and disasters.

There is also the matter of the law being impractical. Do we really want our justice system to be saddled by cases spurned by commentaries in blogs and social networking sites including the frivolous and trivial? Do we really have the means to prosecute everyone who commits electronic libel? If even just a fraction of Filipinos who think Vicente Sotto is unfit to become senator decides to deliberately commit mass electronic libel by maligning the senator in social networking sites, do we have enough resources to make millions accountable? What is the point of having a law if it cannot be implemented anyway?

The timing of the signing of the bill sucks. I don’t think that the senators who voted in favor of the bill did so out of fear that what happened to Sotto would also happen to them. Still, you can’t stop people from speculating that the two events are related.

I agree that there should be a means to police malicious and immature commentary in the Internet. I agree that there are far too many people who seem to treat social networking sites as nothing more but repository of their personal rants and complaints. But we don’t need to hold a gun against everyone’s temple just to make a point. The cybercrime law is just too draconian a response to a relatively minor social problem.

I have been informed that certain civil rights advocates will take the issue to court. I support this move. We must not allow what happened 40 years ago to happen again in this country.

sotto, the senate, the pits #RH

other than senator miriam, who is rather forgiving of sotto…

…this is not the academe where plagiarism is a mortal sin. We should give leeway in politics, as long as later on the source is acknowledged.

and senate president enrile, who started out agreeing with sotto that a blog can be copied, and is now saying that he does not know anything about blogging, but who is of course still defending his majority leader…

Ang sinabi ko, hindi ko alam kung totoo iyung akusasyon sa kaniya tungkol sa plagiarism, pero kung totoo man, marahil ang dapat nating isipin, totoo ba, tama ba iyung kaniyang sinabi upang suportahan ang kaniyang paninindigan tungkol sa panukalang batas (RH bill) na nakasalang sa ating Senado…

and senators pimentel and arroyo, whom sotto cited in an adlib (august 29 speech) to be in agreement with him on some technicality or other vis a vis plagiarism allegations — that makes 5 senators including sotto — there are 18 others in that august chamber who have been silent as mice on the issue.  hopefully it’s not because they’re as clueless about blogs and the internet and copyright as sotto and enrile, rather, that they know better and that the pro-RH among them, sponsors miriam and pia especially, are just biding their time, ready to pounce with a vengeance when it’s their turn to respond, before any talk of amendments.

i expect nothing less than the vigor and vitriol that miriam spewed out at the prosecutor-representatives in the impeachment trial of corona.  anything less would tell us that indeed the senate these days is nothing but an old boys club, and that it’s okay lang with all of them that sotto has pulled down senate discourse to the level of eat bulaga.  yuck.  that would be really really low, lower even than the lower house.

as for sotto’s and enrile’s claim that the we in blogosphere who have been attacking him for plagiarism have no answers to his assertions vs the RH bill, hmm.  this blog, for one, has responded to some of those points, but i guess i’m under the radar, ‘no?  maybe no one’s reading me, not even other bloggers or news websites, haha, how humbling (buti na lang i’m into weil’s gravity and grace, salamat kay jorge, and i’m happy to blog as much for readers as for the record).  but there’s also dr. alberto “quasi” romualdez, former doh chief, who has been quick to respond to every argument against the RH bill via his malaya column.  i suppose he’s under the radar, too?

anyway, lest sotto continue believing that his arguments are unassailable:

(1) says sotto, “the RH bill violates the constitution that protects the unborn child from the moment of conception.”  this is all about the question of when life begins, or when “conception” happens.  at the moment of fertilization ba or of implantation in the uterus?  try googling it and you will find that there are as many arguments for fertilization, as there are for implantation, as the beginning of human life.  quite weighty, to me, is the fact that only when the fertilized egg or zygote has implanted does a woman’s urine test positive for pregnancy. 

so who is to settle the debate?  sotto?  eat bulaga?  congress? the supreme court? the president?  science?  the church?  answer: NONE OF THE ABOVE.  i say, THE WOMAN DECIDES. 

(2) says sotto, contraceptives are “harmful to the health of the pregnant mother and the unborn child.”  sotto’s proof of the harm done to the mother is the gut dysbiosis theory of natasha campbell mcbride that he plagiarized from sarah pope’s blog.  he has ordered it stricken from senate records to resolve the plagiarism issue, he hopes, but it was a lame argument to begin with.  read sotto, guts, plagiarism #RH.  according to a doctor, an internist, who does a lot of research via the internet:

Googling, found an incredible dearth of studies linking oral contraceptives to gut dysbiosis, how long it takes to develop, how long it takes to resolve on discontinuance of pills. No comparative studies. Even searching studies on gut dysbiosis in infants and neonates; there’s no mention or an “also” mention of contraceptives as cause.

sotto’s proof of harm done by contraceptives on the unborn child is a report prepared for the Royal Commission on Population in Great Britain which found that the incidence of induced abortion as a percentage of all pregnancies was nine times higher for women using contraceptives than for women not using birth control. 

it was lifted from The Truth Of Contraceptives blog, which says:

In Great Britain, in 1949, a report prepared for the Royal Commission on Population found that the incidence of induced abortion as a percentage of all pregnancies was nine times higher for women using contraceptives than for women not using birth control. [emphasis mine]

wala pang pills noong 1949.  read sotto self-destructs, and find out what kind of contraceptives women were using then that were inducing abortions.

(3) says sotto, “we don’t need it because the DOH is already doing what the RH bill wants to do.”  really?  where?  when?  how?  there’s no info campaign going on, and there are no pills and condoms and i.u.d.s available, for poor couples who might want to practice family planning once they know what their options are.

(4) says sotto,  “the RH bill will cost too much money that could be used for schools, hospitals, and medicines.”  aha.  read Mulat Pinoy, a population awareness initiative supported by the Probe Media Foundation, Inc. and the Philippine Center for Population and Development which i cited in fudging the facts: sotto’s anti-RH sob story 

Investing in family planning services will save several billion pesos, which can be used for critical social services.

The latest US and Philippine research show that governments annually spend a minimum of Php 5.5 billion in healthcare costs to address unintended pregnancies and their complications.

By contrast, only Php 2.0-3.5 billion annually is needed to fund a comprehensive range of voluntary family planning services for the entire country, which also results in a more sustainable population to provide for.

(5) says sotto, “it is not in accord with Filipino culture.”  LOL.  as if filipino culture were a fixed, static, thing that doesn’t evolve.  the … argument is a matter to be studied by sociologists and other experts in culture and social attitudes, says dr. romualdez.  besides, the surveys are consistent: an overwhelming number of filipinos, 7 out of 10, want the RH bill passed into law.

over dzmm teleradyo, the same afternoon of his aug 29 rant claiming that he is a victim of cyberbullying, i heard sotto in a phone interview with karen davila and vic de leon lima insisting that when he cried over his dead baby son, the issue was not that his son had died, but that helen had gotten pregnant despite taking pills.  my answer to that is here.  he went on to say that this is precisely the reason why he thinks pill-popping will lead to abortion: because daw women who get pregnant even when they’re taking pills would be more likely to resort to abortion.  teka, helen obviously did not.  surely he’s not saying that helen’s different from, better than, the rest of us?  obviously it’s just another fallacious eat-bulaga kind of argument.

as fallacious as calling us cyberbullies, we who blog and tweet and facebook and who have been calling him out on his plagiarizing and eat-bulaga ways.

Ako yata ang kauna-unahang senador ng Pilipinas na naging biktima ng cyber-bullying. Mula sa blogs, Facebook, at Twitter, ginawa akong sentro ng mga mapanira at malisyosong atake ng iba’t ibang tao, lalo pa ng mga sumusuporta sa RH Bill. Bahagi siguro ito ng kanilang istratehiya, lalo pa’t may milyun-milyon silang pondo. “If you can’t kill the message, kill the messenger”. Mukhang ganito ang ginagawa ng aking mga detractors. 

as usual, sotto’s reasoning is twisted and self-serving.

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others, particularly when the behavior is habitual and involves an imbalance of power. It can include verbal harassment, physical assault or coercion and may be directed repeatedly towards particular victims, perhaps on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexuality, or ability.[2][3]The “imbalance of power” may be social power and/or physical power.

sotto is the one who’s being aggressive, lashing out at us from the senate on high, from a position of power.  sotto is the the one who is assaulting and harassing us verbally from that privileged podium, accusing us of malice and, even, of attacking him for the money, as in, may milyun-milyong pondo daw.  ganoon?  i certainly haven’t been offered any.  and, really, for certain may milyun-milyong pondo rin ang anti-RH.  can sotto be fighting the RH bill out of the goodness of his heart?  once upon a time he was all for family planning, along with his eat-bulaga pals.  was he doing it for the money then?  and what, who, changed his mind kaya?

what sotto really wants is for all of us to shut up, stop ganging up on him.  lol.  if you can’t stand the heat, mr. sotto, get out of the kitchen.  to think that you are a grandson, and namesake, of the original senator vicente sotto (1877-1950).  your lolo was a revolutionary and a writer, and as senator he authored the Press Freedom Law aka Sotto Law, “aimed precisely to protect press freedom and keep irate politicians from intimidating journalists and their sources if they do not like what they read.”  how ironic, and sad for nation, that you have turned out to be one of those “irate politicians” who can’t take criticism and who’s too macho to admit that you’ve made one big mistake after another, and who seeks instead to cow and intimidate us into silence.  shame on you, mr. sotto.


jesse robredo was a blogger pala from october 2007 to august 2009 — take that, tito sotto!    the blog Oddball has 31 entries that i intend to copy-and-paste and save and comb through.  i hope it will tell us, or hint at, his thoughts on the economy, the peso-dollar exchange, VAT, the energy problem, foreign affairs, china, america, trapos, the pork barrel, at kung ano-ano’t sino-sino pa.  too bad he stopped blogging after that last entry on cory’s death.  i guess we all know why.

thanks to raissa robles and commenter @noggy for sharing.

“The Filipino is Worth Blogging For” and indie publishing

The Filipino is Worth Blogging For is the title of a book katrina and i are self-publishing and launching on thursday july 19, along with the main attraction, katrina’s first book: of love and other lemons, essays personal and political about being girl-woman-pinay, otherwise known as ka-women-an (hyphens mine), in this day and age in this macho-pa-rin country, the kind of essays i would have wanted to write for my generation but never had the courage to, just because my parents and sibs would have disowned me.  a must-read for all girls, young and old, and their fathers sons brothers lovers too.  the essays are illustrated with new and previous works of artists met, friends made, in the last two years.

… an honest, moving portrait of a young woman who cannot but train her critical eye on the world even as her life splinters around her and who realizes, not without cost, that “the most personal things that informed our real lives, kawomenan could not respond [to].” Where the writer breaks into a lyrical mode, the reader becomes privy to the intimate and the hidden that the persona shares with a beloved. No mere intermissions, these privacies serve as yet another act of resistance when held in counterpoint to the weight of the public and political that inform her life, small acts but no less significant. By turns brave, bewildered, unsparing, and vulnerable, the essays strive to reinvigorate kawomenan by accommodating the experiences and aspirations of a new generation of Filipinas. — from the foreword by Mabi David

while katrina was wrapping up of love…, this second book happened on the side.  the title had come first, inspired by the slogan “The Filipino Is Worth Designing For” on t-shirts of the cobonpue-layug-pineda group at the height of the naia-1 controversy.

joel remembers when it came to him, The Filipino is Worth Blogging For! that at once he bought the domain name, for a support marketing website.  then we sat on it, haha, naghintayan, until i realized that it was i who had the luxury of time while awaiting the foreword and blurbs for my edsa uno book, so i plunged in.

the hard part was going through more than a thousand blogposts over 4 years and choosing the events / issues / people that katrina and i had both blogged about (without repeating each other), and finding that with some rearranging, under new categories and in chronological order (rather than newest blogpost first), narratives are revealed of recent and current history, social and political, as it unfolds in natural time.  a leap from the computer screen into the pages of a book, and it works (if i may say so myself who shouldn’t)!

… this collection fairly crackles with inquisitive and insightful electricity, and serves as engaging, persuasive testimony regarding the merits of following the writings of these authors in venues online or otherwise.  — from blurb by blogger Jaime Oscar M. Salazar

Binabasag nila ang pagkamanhid na namamayani sa lipunan, ipinaparamdam ang samu’t saring porma ng pang-aapi at panlilinlang. Kung hindi ka man sang-ayon sa isang tindig, hindi mo naman maikakailang may punto ang kanilang pag-iisip.  — from blurb by blogger Teo Marasigan

why indie publishing

mainstream publishing houses can make it easy for you, in a sense, put out your book at little cost to you, if any, but usually you have to make pila for who-knows-how-long — unless you’re part of the canonized circle, or very well-connected — but you get only a rather small share of sales, far from commensurate to all the time and energy and creativity you poured into your work, unless of course you’re already a sikat bestseller, in which case you get a better deal, someone correct me if i’m wrong.

the alternative is to do it yourself.  you put out your own money to pay artists who will layout your book and design your cover.  meanwhile you find a printing press, preferably one that’s known to do good work for indie publishers, like benny jalbuena’s corasia, and you choose the paper you like or can afford, and you negotiate prices, and talk serious deadlines, so you can plan your launch.

of course you’ll try to keep expenses low.  you’ll make tawad the artists — helps if you know them personally, mga kindred souls ‘yan — but make sure they’re also into digital technology, because the printing press will expect a usb stick or hard drive containing all the book data.  you’ll choose cheap but presentable paper; you might even keep the number of pages down as the cost per book goes up the thicker the book, and the fewer the number of copies you want.  if you’re lucky the printing press will ask for 50 percent down lang, the rest to follow as the book sells.

you’ll get your money back naman , and possibly turn a small profit in the long run depending on how you price your book — what profit margin you’ll be happy with — and, most important, how you sell it.  you could get into the bookstores, directly or through a distributor, but they’ll want anywhere from 40 to 55 percent of sales (yes, without any puhunan on their part, at least the ones we checked out) which would mean your book gets quite expensive, unless you’re willing to forego profit and just make bawi your puhunan, then it gets just a little expensive.

the alternative is to sell it yourself, which means turning on your most shameless and yabang self — your book is worth buying and reading, you’ll even sign every copy, who knows it might become a collector’s item!  at the launch, get as many of your family and friends and friends of friends to come and buy.  it helps a lot if you give away copies to writers and columnists in the hope that one out of ten comes up with a rave review for the papers and/or the internet.  it helps a lot, too, if you have a website for your book, where you can promote it and  post contact numbers for orders.

we learned all that when we published lola concha’s book, revolutionary routeslast year.  i didn’t want to be edited by a publisher whose concerns would be different from mine, and i wanted to be sure it would look exactly as i envisioned it, which meant katrina working closely with the artists to the very end.  and i wanted to price it cheap while making a little for my work, so i did the index myself, and a cousin did the editing, gratis et amore, and i asked for and got donations from family that covered printing costs and a sosyal launch sa filipinas heritage in makati, lots of food and drinks, lola concha style.

in contrast, of love and other lemons is a katrina project — sampid lang ang the filipino is worth blogging for — all expenses ours, so we’re doing it the way katrina’s indie-publishing friends do it.  in a launch-friendly venue, chef’s bistro in q.c, which doesn’t charge for events in the hope that those who attend will order some of their good food.  katrina’s buying the first 100 or so bottles of beer to get the ball rolling. :)

the good news is, mang benny has texted, tapos na katrina’s book, and worth blogging for is almost done, delivery on wednesday, what a relief!   see you at the launch!