Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New CICT chair to report in October

By Erwin Oliva

MANILA, Philippines -- The newly appointed chair of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) will report next month, an executive of the agency told INQUIRER.net Friday.

For more than a month since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo named Ray Anthony Roxas Chua as the new chair of the CICT, he has not yet reported to his government post.

"I was told that he will report next month," said CICT Commissioner Tim Diaz de Rivera, currently acting as officer-in-charge of the agency.

Diaz de Rivera was also told that Chua is currently in the United States taking care of some personal business.

Arroyo announced Chua's appointment on August 3, 2007 in Cebu.

Chua will replace former CICT chairman Ramon Sales who took an indefinite leave that led to his resignation for health reasons on June 2007.

Chua is a graduate of Wharton and is in his early 30s. He was appointed by Arroyo because of his background in computer science. He is also affiliated with the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce Industry Inc.

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Senate bill seeks to introduce ‘robotics’ in high school

By Veronica Uy

MANILA, Philippines -- As young Filipinos continue to reap honors in robotics around the world, Senate President Manuel Villar has filed Senate Bill 1579 seeking to introduce robotics into the high school curriculum.

The bill also provides for the appropriation of P100 million to support the incorporation of the subject in physics and other science subjects. The money is for designing the course, teacher training, and development of tools and instructional materials.

“The Philippines has been silently reaping laurels in science and technology,” the Senate president said.

He cited Kim Marco Perez, Dann Joseph Garcia, and Francisco Gabriel Nuñez of the First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities who bagged the gold medal in the Open Category of the World Robotics Olympiad in Nanning, China last year.

Villar also praised the Filipino students who won in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair last year.

In the explanatory note on the bill, he underscored the important role of science and technology in attaining progress.

“Science and technology has undeniably become one of the most significant tools in economic growth and a defining source of competitive advantage,” he said.

“Robots shall be utilized as technology tools that will allow students to perform experimental applications in designing, building and testing gadgets for instructional purposes,” according to the proposed measure.

Under the bill, the Philippine Science High School and other selected high schools under the Department of Education shall be the first to be introduced to the implementation of robotics application.

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Comelec, CICT: Not enough time to automate barangay polls

By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines -- Both the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) believe there is not enough time to automate the village polls.

"There is not enough time. There are only six to seven weeks left until October 29, 2007," said CICT Commissioner Tim Diaz de Rivera, who is also chair of the technical advisory committee to the Comelec, in reaction to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's statement Friday.

The technical advisory committee is composed of several government agencies and private sector stakeholders handpicked by the CICT.

Arroyo announced that she wanted the elections computerized starting with the barangay (village) elections next month. She said this during the diamond jubilee celebration of the Woman Suffrage Philippines at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

“I don't know how it can be done. We are just starting to evaluate potential vendors. But last July, we did suggest non-binding mock elections for the October elections. The Comelec rejected it because there was not enough time," Diaz de Rivera said.

The government executive stressed that the technical advisory committee and the Comelec have agreed to implement an automated election system for the ARMM polls in August 2008.

Last week, there was a suggestion to hold automated mock elections in November in select areas with minimal cost to government, Diaz de Rivera said.

"We haven't decided on which areas. The law [Republic Act 9369] requires us to do it in 12 locations covering 5 percent of voting population. Since there's no funding available for pilot implementation," the government executive said.

He added that the technical advisory committee is also looking at holding a vendor road show, where vendors could showcase their technology during mock elections in one designated area.

"The idea here is to understand various technologies of different vendors and from that activity combined with our own research, we will recommend what Comelec can use during ARMM elections," Diaz de Rivera said.

The government executive also stressed that RA 9369 or the Automated Election System law requires Comelec to have a six-month lead time for voter education.

"If we wanted to automate the barangay elections, voter education should have started as early as February or March.

Meanwhile, James Jimenez, spokesperson from Comelec, agreed with the assessment of CICT Commissioner Diaz de Rivera.

Jimenez also stressed that there is no "consolidation of votes" during the village polls, which involves 42,000 barangays.

"There's no consolidation of votes during the barangay elections. We might be under-utilizing the technology that will be used," he said, adding that the Comelec is preparing for automating the ARMM elections.

Nonetheless, Jimenez said that the Comelec will wait for the recommendations of the technical advisory committee.

Comelec officials were unavailable for additional comment.

The CICT head has been mandated under Republic Act 9369, which amends the Automated Election Law (RA 8436), to name at least six non-government representatives to come out with guidelines on how to automate elections by 2010.

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Australia prepares for 'Google election'

By Neil Sands
Agence France-Presse

SYDNEY -- Google Australia on Friday unveiled what it described as the world's most powerful dedicated election website, capable of exposing inconsistencies in the public pronouncements of political leaders.

With an election due in Australia before the end of the year, Google said the website would be a powerful tool for voters and would help generate debate during the upcoming campaign.

Prime Minister John Howard, who has announced policies online for the first time in the lead-up to the election, said politicians were now taking the Internet seriously.

"I recognize that this medium is not some sort of gimmick but can provide an uninterrupted, direct and open channel between decision-makers and voters," Howard said in a video presentation at the site's launch.

Howard's conservative government has targeted Internet users as it seeks to reverse poor opinion polls and win a fifth term in office.

Google's Australian-developed election site includes a feature called "On the Record," where users can type in a politician's name, along with an issue of their choosing.

It then scours parliamentary transcripts and the politician's personal website to find any statements on the issue, allowing voters to check whether their representatives are being consistent.

It also gives voters electoral information through a range of online tools including YouTube, GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps. Google said it was the first time so many features had been available on a single election website.

Peter Garrett, the former singer with protest rockers Midnight Oil who is now environment spokesman for the opposition Labor Party, said the Internet would have a massive impact on the election.

"This will probably be a Google election," Garrett told reporters.

"I think it's going to encourage a generation of Australians who have used online access as one of their major communications, education and socialization tools from a very young age, to key into what I think will be a very exciting political campaign."

Cabinet minister Joe Hockey agreed but said television remained the most powerful medium for sending a political message.

"Television still remains the biggest distribution," he said.

While parliamentarians have embraced the Internet, its user-generated content means it is also a potential minefield for politicians.

The stoutly-built Hockey appeared on a morning talk show earlier this year and briefly donned a pair of green Shrek ears as a gag. Footage of the incident has haunted him on YouTube ever since.

Garrett conceded politicians were vulnerable to negative comments posted on their YouTube offerings but said allowing people to "vent" was a small price to pay for the benefits of online politicking.

"It makes us more accountable -- it can't be a bad thing for democracy," he said.

Government officials were last month forced to deny editing hundreds of entries in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to remove negative comments.

Tracking software reportedly showed government computers were used to delete a reference to Treasurer Peter Costello as "Captain Smirk," while a change traced to Howard's department bizarrely stated "poo bum dicky wee wee".

Opponents of the US-led war in Iraq put US Vice President Dick Cheney on the spot last month when they posted a 1994 interview on YouTube in which he said US occupation would result in a "quagmire" and lead to many US casualties.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

High-tech ID system gets additional funding

By Alexander Villafania

MANILA, Philippines -- The multi-agency project Unified Multi-purpose ID System (UMID) is set for the next phase of implementation after receiving $502,534 from the United States government through the US Trade and Development Agency.

The Philippine government, through the e-Government Fund of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), has also allocated a corresponding amount of P88.75 million.

The next phase of UMID, which started pilot tests late last year, is to create 5,000 biometric cards with electronic chips. Likewise, an automated fingerprint identification system would be fine-tuned and integration with a common reference number for the pilot test recipients at the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), National Statistics Office (NSO) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHILHEALTH).

The next phase will also see the purchase of several biometric machines that capture the image of the would-be cardholder, signature and index finger prints.

The other card-issuing government agencies that are part of the UMID project are the Government Service Insurance System, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Pag-IBIG, Philippine Postal Office, Commission on Election, Social Security System, Land Bank and Philippine Postal Saving Bank.

Through UMID, Filipino citizens need only one type of card that have unique common reference numbers to grant them access to government services.

In an interview with INQUIRER.net, NEDA Assistant Director-General Danny Pabellon said the next phase would start in the first week of October. It would still be a full government project and no private sector has been tapped to conduct the project.

Pabellon said that NEDA is still working on the technical specification, the terms of reference and the request for proposals, which is set to be completed by December 2007. The documents are to be finally released by February 2008.

“This would be a build, operate and transfer project. By June 2008, we’ll be approving the contract to the winning bidder and full nationwide implementation will start in July 2008.

Dispelling misconceptions of potential security breaches of UMID, Pabellon noted that only 14 items will be included in the card. These are the cardholder’s name, address, birth date and birthplace, sex, picture, signature, height, weight, marital status, parents’ names, index finger prints and tax identification number.

“All the rest of the information are retained by the respective government agencies. We’ll ensure the security of each of the databases to prevent information theft,” Pabellon reassured.

The UMID is similar to the United States’ Social Security Card, which contains information about American citizens and indexes their employment records, student records and even health and credit card records. While not a requirement, the social security card speeds up processing of government services rendered to individuals.

Moreover, the UMID will not be a required card. Filipino citizens can still get separate cards from the different agencies to access individual services.

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Favila ‘at a loss’ over House summons on NBN deal

By Maila Ager

MANILA, Philippines -- Trade Secretary Peter Favila said he was “a little bit at a loss” as to why he was being summoned by the House of Representatives to answer questions on the $329 million national broadband network contract between the government and the ZTE Corp. of China.

Appearing at a budget hearing in the House Thursday, Favila pointed to the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) as the agency tasked to handle the NBN project.

“In fact, I received an invitation sent by the Office of the Speaker to a question hour and I already replied to the Speaker’s office that I did not get the permission to attend to this question hour,” Favila said, responding to Deputy Minority Floor Leader Roilo Golez when questioned about his absence Wednesday.

“But really, I am a little bit at a loss here because this is DoTC, as I understand, the DoTC is the implementing agency,” he said.

Favila said he had written Speaker Jose de Venecia to inquire why he was being summoned to a question hour. But he said he had not received an answer from the Speaker up to this day.

“Not that I’m questioning the Speaker but I’m just seeking a clarification,” he said.

As trade secretary, Favila explained that his responsibility was to look after the country’s bilateral relations with other trading partners in neighboring countries.

Wednesday’s question hour did not push through as the House decided to cancel its session because of the promulgation of the verdict on former president Joseph Estrada.

The Supreme Court issued an indefinite temporary restraining order (TRO) over the NBN agreement over allegations of corruption and had asked the government to comment on a petition filed by a losing bidder.

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No deal yet with ZTE, only supplier’s contract--Arroyo execs

No deal yet with ZTE, only supplier’s contract--Arroyo execs

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

MANILA, Philippines -- There is no contract yet between the government and China's ZTE Corporation for the implementation of the $330-million national broadband network project, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s officials insisted Thursday.

Former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri said what was signed in April was a prospective supplier's contract.

Neri, who now temporarily sits as chairman of the Commission on Higher Education, said the supplier's contract would take effect only once a loan agreement was signed, adding that a loan agreement "will have an effect of an executive agreement" between the Philippines and China.

In a separate interview, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves corroborated Neri’s statement.

The Supreme Court issued an indefinite temporary restraining order on the project last Tuesday in response to a petition filed by Amsterdam Holding Inc. (AHI), one of the losing bidders, which claimed that not only their rights but those of the Filipino people would be violated if the project would push through.

But Neri reiterated that "there was no contract so to speak."

Teves added that both countries were still at the "talking stage, without going into the nitty-gritty yet."

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and ZTE vice president Yu Yong signed the contract on April 21 during the President’s visit to Boao, China. The contract was reported stolen shortly after the signing but was later reconstituted and re-signed.

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Mendoza dodges solons’ questions on broadband deal

By Maila Ager - INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza has invoked the sub judice rule to evade questions on the $329 million national broadband network (NBN) deal between the government and China’s ZTE Corp.

“I’m sorry your honor, but my legal counsel has advised me from answering questions on the matter,” Mendoza told members of the House appropriations committee during a hearing Thursday night.

Mendoza said officials of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) could not speak about the contract, citing pending petitions filed against them before the Supreme Court and the Office of the Ombudsman.

He said they were “bound by the sub judice rule for pending cases and in this way, might not discuss any matter related to the merits of the case lest be declared by the SC in contempt of court.”

Jose “Joey” de Venecia III has asked the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the controversial project while Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico has filed a petition before the Ombudsman.

Acting on De Venecia’s plea, the high tribunal on Tuesday ordered a temporary halt to the broadband project, envisioned to establish a seamless connectivity of landline, cellular and Internet services among all government offices nationwide.

But opposition Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, who raised the NBN issue during the hearing, said Mendoza simply needed to answer questions whether a contract was actually signed between the ZTE Corp. and the government.

“This is not any investigation,” he said, adding that it was not the merit of the case being questioned.

But Mendoza maintained his stated position prompting Rodriguez to suggest he might be constrained to request for the resetting of the DOTC’s budget hearing.

Committee chairman Edcel Lagman reminded Rodriguez , however, that the NBN project has no budgetary implications because it has no appropriation yet as earlier stated by Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya.

Committee vice chair Junie Cua agreed with Lagman.

The NBN contract was reportedly signed by Mendoza and Yu Yong, ZTE vice president, on April 21 in ceremonies witnessed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in China.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Yahoo! puts SMS in email

By Alexander Villafania - INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines will be one of the first countries to have an integrated short messaging service (SMS) from Yahoo! Mail email service as part of the expansion of its worldwide communications services.

The SMS system upgrade of Yahoo! Mail would allow users to send text messages to mobile phones initially to 25 countries, including the Philippines.

The Philippines was chosen to be among the first to use the service due to the country’s high text message traffic. Yahoo! cites National Telecommunications Commission figures stating that there are an estimated 500 million text messages being sent every day this year, compared to just 250 million in 2005.

There are at least 45 million mobile subscribers in the Philippines, according to latest estimates from the NTC.

The service is expected to be activated in two weeks.

Yahoo! partnered with wireless service providers Globe Telecom and Smart Communications for the Yahoo! Mail SMS upgrade. Users of the local Yahoo! Mail (ph.yahoo.com) can send text messages to Globe and Smart subscribers for free.

However, corresponding amounts of two pesos for Smart and 2.50 pesos for Globe are charged to replies to Yahoo! Mail SMS.

Mobile phone users have to first register their phones by typing their Yahoo! Mail username and password and typing the corresponding short codes for each of the telecommunications providers; 62580 for Smart and 2258 for Globe.

Incidentally, Yahoo!’s instant messaging client application already has text messaging features available. The company has yet to verify how the Yahoo! Mail SMS would work alongside the Yahoo! Messenger SMS service.

Yahoo! is still testing Yahoo! Mail Beta, an upgrade to its Yahoo! Mail Classic interface.

Yahoo! also faces competition from local online services company Chikka.com, which is also developing upgrades for its integrated messaging service that allows users to send and receive text messages through the Chikka client.

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Poll automation demos to follow October barangay elections

By Lawrence Casiraya - INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines -- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will begin testing different automation technologies following the local barangay elections this October.

The Comelec is looking to finally deploy computerization beginning with next year's local elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

"Chairman (Benjamin) Abalos and Commissioner (Resureccion) Borra have agreed to hold the mock elections a week after the barangay elections," said Tim Diaz de Rivera, head of the technical working group assisting Comelec with its modernization efforts.

The mock polls are designed to help Diaz de Rivera's group in evaluating which technology to adopt for the ARMM elections, scheduled for August 2008.

The Comelec has also issued requests for information or RFI to technology suppliers so that they could present their products for demonstration.

In an interview via phone, Diaz de Rivera added there is a possibility of adopting different technologies for the actual elections. He said that one platform his group is eyeing uses direct recording electronic (DRE) machines.

Instead of manual polling booths, DRE uses preconfigured options wherein the voter casts his vote by pressing a touch screen that lists down the names of candidates.

While this is the most advanced technology commonly used in other countries, this is also touted as the most expensive to deploy, according to Comelec in its website.

DRE is the most marketed platform for election automation, with at least seven vendors selling the technology, according to Diaz de Rivera.

He added that his group is eyeing precincts in which each vendor can demonstrate their respective solutions.

"One option is for local government units to volunteer to hold the mock polls. We already have mayors who have volunteered for it," he said.

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SC votes 8-7 to stop NBN deal

By Leila Salaverria - Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- By a vote of 8-7, the Supreme Court Tuesday ordered a stop to the implementation of the $329-million contract for the National Broadband Network (NBN) project, which has been tainted with allegations of bribery, overprice and sexual favors.

The seven justices who voted against the temporary restraining order (TRO) were mostly new appointees to the tribunal, said a lawyer who asked not to be named.

Acting on the petitions of Iloilo Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico and Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI), the tribunal issued an order temporarily prohibiting government officials from enforcing the deal with China’s ZTE Corp.

AHI, which offered an unsolicited bid for the project, and Suplico also sought to compel government officials to give them a copy of the contract and other related documents for scrutiny.

“Now, therefore, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court, you, respondents ... and any and all persons acting on their behalf are hereby enjoined from ‘pursuing, entering into indebtedness, disbursing funds, and implementing the ZTE-DOTC Broadband Deal and Project’ as prayed for,” the high court said in an en banc resolution.

Congressional leaders have called for the scrapping of the controversial NBN contract, the subject of an investigation by committees in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The NBN project is intended to connect government offices nationwide through landline, cellular and Internet services. It would be funded through a loan from China.

Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez said the respondents to the two petitions were given 15 days upon notice to file their comments.

The respondents include the National Economic and Development Authority and its former chief Romulo Neri; the Department of Transportation and Communications and Secretary Leandro Mendoza and Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso III; the Commission on Information and Communications Technology and Chair Ramon Sales; ZTE Corp.; Arescom Inc.; the National Telecommunications Commission; bids and awards for information and communications technology committee, and the technical working group for ICT.

The high court, in a resolution released Tuesday, also took note of the entry of appearance of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala and Cruz law office as ZTE Corp. counsel and granted its request to be given copies of pleadings, appearances and motions in relation to the case.

The $329-million contract was signed by Mendoza and ZTE vice president Yu Yong on April 21 in Boao, China, in ceremonies witnessed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Hours later the Philippine copy of the contract was stolen in a hotel in China. It has since been reconstituted.

The NBN deal has been in the news over the past two weeks because of allegations of bribery and overpricing. Nueva Ecija Rep. Carlos Padilla accused Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. of brokering the deal and of receiving sexual favors from ZTE.

AHI cofounder Jose “Joey” de Venecia III also said Abalos offered him $10 million in exchange for backing off from the deal.

Abalos has denied the allegations, saying De Venecia’s statements were part of an attempt to mislead the public about De Venecia’s role in the NBN project.

ZTE has also denied bribing government executives to bag the contract.

Seen by only select few

Earlier, two economics professors at the University of the Philippines said the NBN deal was not necessary because of existing broadband networks operated by the private sector.

In their petition filed the other day, AHI and its president Nathaniel Sauz said the government was forcing the deal on the people despite the numerous questions about it, and despite the contract being seen by only a select few government officials.

“Very plainly, these parties, herein respondents included, are railroading the NBN-ZTE transaction, ramming it down every Filipino’s throat.

“The government is proceeding with this project with reckless abandon, impervious to the very valid concerns, criticisms, and misgivings already expressed before various fora during the past several months. Obviously, the parties interested in this transaction want the deal sealed, so to speak, even before anybody can raise a decisive howl.”

‘Rigged election process’

The petitioners also said that if the deal continued, Filipinos would be in debt for something that was not been studied well and to which they had not agreed.

Suplico said the high court should nullify the NBN contract with ZTE because it was entered into through “rigged selection proceedings,” and violated the procurement law and the build-operate-transfer law that require public bidding, and the Telecoms Policy Act that requires the government to privatize telecommunications facilities.

“The NBN project, under the contract in question, should be annulled and enjoined for preferring public indebtedness over self-reliant and self-liquidating private sector initiatives,” he said.

How they voted

A source said those who voted to issue the TRO were Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Associate Justices Leonardo Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Antonio Carpio, Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Conchita Carpio-Morales and Adolf Azcuna.

The seven justices who voted against the TRO were Renato Corona, Dante Tinga, Minita Chico-Nazario, Cancio Garcia, Presbitero Velasco, Antonio Nachura and Ruben Reyes.

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NBI studying case vs forum owner allegedly peddling porn

By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines -- The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is now studying the evidence it confiscated from a raid of the house of a Filipino allegedly behind an online forum that was singled out by a Senator as peddling pornographic materials on the Internet.

Lawyer Victor Bessat, NBI Deputy Director for Special Investigation Services, confirmed in an interview that the NBI had conducted a raid on Mark Verzo’s home following the issuance of a search warrant.

Verzo, who appeared to be the owner of the domain name boybastos.com, was invited by authorities last week to shed light on the NBI's investigation after Senator Loren Legarda identified the website as peddling indecent materials, among others.

He was released immediately, said Bessat, noting that the authorities had no reason to detain him.

"He was not arrested. This case is still being studied," the NBI deputy director later clarified in a telephone interview.

Hoping to boost her war against computer pornography, Legarda urged law enforcement agencies last week to shut down the “boybastos” website. This prompted the website's owners to take down its forums and gallery, where some allegedly indecent materials were found.

"We've checked the domain name boybastos.com. It is registered with Network Solutions. The original domain name registrant is traceable, even if they tampered with the online listing on the day Senator Legarda assailed the site, and put in her name as the registrant, apparently in a feeble attempt to mock her," Catanduanes Representative Joseph Santiago said last week.

Santiago is also chairman of the House committee on information and communications technology.

Santiago urged the NBI to find ways to remove the domain name with the help of Network Solutions Inc., a US company that registers and manages domain names.

Earlier, Legarda urged agencies like the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to look into websites containing porn or related materials.

The IACAT is composed of the departments of justice, social welfare, foreign affairs and labor, as well as the immigration bureau, the police, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women and three groups representing women, children and overseas workers.

Legarda has filed Senate Bill 1375, which hopes to impose stricter penalties on online smut.

Under the bill, people found peddling child pornography and other "indecent materials" online would be punished with up to six years in prison or a fine of as much as P500,000, or both

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Cyber attacks: a new weapon in the state arsenal

Agence France-Presse

NEW YORK -- Cyber-attacks against government networks in recent months illustrate how states like China are discovering the power of a new weapon that is less expensive and more discreet than battalions of tanks or spies.

Cyber assaults blamed on China have struck sensitive government sites in Britain, France, Germany and the United States -- including the Pentagon and the French defense ministry, officials recently confirmed to major media. China denies the accusations.

"A state can use these tools to exert its power. States are beginning to understand that, and in a lot of ways the Chinese are taking the lead, and the Russians as well," said Ned Moran of the Terrorism Research Center.

"A country like China is realizing that instead of building a robust espionage network, based on people in a country and recruiting spies, they can do the same thing at a very low cost by executing cyber attacks," Moran said.

The expert at the Virginia-based Terrorism Research Center, a branch of Total Intelligence Solutions -- a firm founded by former CIA officials -- said it was clear the recent spate of hacking came from China.

"You can detect patterns, coming from the same country, the same network, with the same type of techniques," he said.

"That gives you a sense that it's probably coming from the Chinese, based on what I've seen. The Chinese government either is doing it, or is looking the other way as Chinese citizens are doing it."

Operating quietly and methodically, the cyber attackers identify key people in an organization and then send them e-mails to penetrate the network, he said.

"They send you an e-mail that looks like it comes from your boss, with a link that they ask you to click on.

Once they are in your computer they can get into your network and they start looking for information and very quietly copying it and moving it out," Moran said.

The e-mails target two to three people "to stay under the radar," he said. "They are very patient."

Successful attempts at breaking into defense networks raise the possibility of shutting down communications between a commander and forces in the field, Moran said.

"They would be able to control a ship, not change its GPS (global navigation) coordinate but more likely cut off communications," said Moran.

The Pentagon reportedly suspects Beijing of preparing a plan to disable the US aircraft carrier fleet, while the Financial Times reported this month the Chinese military had broken into a computer network used by the office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In an apparent warning to China, officials from European and US governments have confirmed cyber attacks and blamed the breaches on Beijing.

"Typically when these attacks get announced, they have happened many months before," Moran said.

"Because when it happens, you don't want anybody to know that you know these attacks are taking place."

According to Moran, official confirmation from Europe and the United States indicates Western governments are faced with a growing threat from information warfare.

An attack on Estonia's information network earlier this year, allegedly carried out from Russia, represented a certain type of economic-oriented cyber assault, Moran said.

"They shut down their banks, the (Estonian) government's ability to collect taxes, the media's capacity to get information out to the public," he said.

The move represented a Russian warning to Estonia, he said, "without encircling it with tanks."

Although Estonia is a member of NATO, the alliance chose not to respond to the cyber attack amid initial confusion over whether an attack was indeed under way, he said.

"Basically the Russians got away with it, and they achieved their goals," he said.

The case of Estonia underscores how cyberwarfare can deliver results in a way that in the past only large spy networks or vast armies could produce.

"States are starting to figure out how cyberwarfare can help them achieve their goals, espionage, economic embargo, or coercion -- to cause pain to your enemies so they change their behavior," Moran said.

Cyber warfare is now a common pursuit among most states, said Bruce Schneier, who has written books on the subject. "Everybody does it," he said.

Moreover, government networks are plagued with "lousy security" arrangements, he said. And as government information networks become more complex, the networks become increasingly vulnerable.

"Complexity is the worst enemy of security," Schneier said.

But he said the dangers of cyber warfare should not be overstated, saying US battle ships could not be steered remotely by a cyber hacker.


‘Speaker’s son also liable for graft in NBN deal’--Escudero

By Veronica Uy - INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines -- Jose De Venecia III, founder of the firm that lost the bid to build the national broadband network (NBN), is also liable for graft as his company should not have qualified to bid for the contract under the country’s anti-graft law, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said Tuesday.

The Supreme Court just issued a temporary restraining order on the multi-billion-peso information technology deal on the petition of the son and namesake of Speaker Jose De Venecia by former wife Victoria Perez.

De Venecia is a major stakeholder in Amsterdam Holdings Inc.

Citing Section 5 of the Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act, Escudero said, “it shall be unlawful for the spouse or for any relative by consanguinity or affinity, within the third civil degree of the President of the Philippines, Vice-President of the Philippines, Philippine Senate President, Speaker of the House, to intervene directly or indirectly, in any business, transaction, contract, or application with the government."

The senator reiterated his call for the immediate cancellation of the deal for its “anomalous and scandalous nature,” describing it as “rotten to the core with all parties involved supplying the molds.”

“The stink of this contract is too atrocious to bear already. It should be discarded immediately without prejudice to pursuing legal cases against erring officials who figured in the said deal,” he said.

Escudero said that while the younger De Venecia could be credited for spilling the beans on the way the deal was allegedly “immorally” brokered by Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos, he cannot be regarded as an objective witness and whistle blower.

“For one, because he is a losing bidder and he has all the biased reasons to cry out. But Joey De Venecia is not without dirt on his hands when he tried cornering the deal. The fact that he is a son of the House Speaker should have [made him refrain] from dipping his hands into any government contracts,” he said.


$450-M Chinese ODA to fund Cyber Ed project

The proposed mullti-billion-peso Cyber Education Project of the Department of Education will complement and train teachers, not replace them, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said over the weekend.

Stressing that Cyber Ed seeks to improve delivery of basic education by enhancing student competence and upgrading teacher capabilities, Lapus said the project was never meant to replace teachers. “Teachers are our most important allies in educating our children. Therefore, disinformation that they will be replaced by TV sets are unfair and unfounded,” he stressed.

Using satellite technology, the Cyber Ed project seeks to provide 12 video channels, wireless wide-area networking, and Internet even in remote schools. Its two-way satellite Internet capability also allows students, teachers, and school administrators to access and download instructional materials for learners, teaching aids, modules for teacher training, and general information for research and general knowledge.

The DepEd chief said one of the project highlights – the 15-20 minute “live” class sessions by excellent national master teachers – is being deliberately used by some quarters to sow disinformation and fear among public school teachers. “The ‘live’ teaching sessions are only meant to ensure accuracy of content by reducing or avoiding teacher misconceptions and textbook errors. By no means will these ‘live’ sessions on special topics replace our teachers,” he stressed.

Lapus also appealed to Cyber Ed detractors not to lump the project with the controversial ZTE national broadband deal. “ Please don’t confuse this with the ZTE National Broadband issue. Cyber Ed is different… this project is fully transparent as it was discussed, reviewed, amended, changed in scope so many times before it was approved,” he explained.

He added that the Cyber Ed project is one of the most efficient and cost-effective solutions to mass education problems. Satellite video delivery or satellite TV with two-way Internet capability is a mature and proven technology successfully used for distance education in Mexico, India, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia, and China.

“We are going to use PCs with satellite Internet connection so there will be continuous dialogues in the schools’ multimedia rooms. There will also be a studio in every region so we can go inter-regional. Let us say, the region decides it’s going to have a special tape just for a region like Caraga. They can air something just for Caraga – something just for their dialect. We can do that. They can also go national. The intention is to continue the exchange, upward, diagonal, even horizontal,” Lapus said.

As to concerns that the Cyber Ed project is too technical, he said the project is user-friendly.

During the five-year project lifespan, total investment outlay in Cyber Ed will reach P26.48 billion, composed of $450-million in Chinese official development assistance with counterpart funding from the Philippine government.