Monday, January 26, 2009

On NTC And Ala-isms: Making Mountains Out Of Molehills...

This'll be long. Really long.

.:On The NTC Hoopla:.

Moments like these, I feel terribly ashamed to be a blogger.

Really, I do. While some great bloggers have done so much to put what used to merely be an online diary on the map, some people just seem to have a knack for running around like Chicken Little, screaming at the top of their lungs that "the sky is falling".

Instead of just taking the time out to read things over carefully, they pick some choice words from something, take it out of context for dramatic effect, and use this as an excuse to bring out the pitchforks and engage the groupthink bloggers have started becoming notorious for.

I'd be the first in line to admit that I've picked the wrong side of an argument more than enough times for me to care to count before. I guess that's precisely why I've slowly learned to temper my opinions with a minimum modicum of research before jumping to conclusions and condeming anyone.

In any case, this is what got me in a tizzy lately... NTC's new memorandum circular, which makes an attempt to, quite clearly, deregulate the current crop of value-added services in the telecom industry.

If you read closely enough, the intention is clear: this bill is aimed for value-added services like ringtones, picture messages, and so forth. This bill is mainly for the cellphone industry, since the NTC has jurisdiction over Telecom companies, but currently, is not quite empowered in the realm of the internet. Furthermore, the bill is not meant to burden the content developer, but in reality, is meant to empower the content developer by changing the current profit scheme that favors the content provider more than the developer. The obvious catch is to ensure this happens, the developers must register. Most developers seem to be optimistic about this, so what's the beef?

The beef arises from people who insist that since telecoms now offer net access, the content accessed therein is now subject to this bill. This, on the surface, appears to be a valid assumption. Assuming that this was the true and malicious intent of the bill (Perhaps in retaliation over the Pangandaman and QueSci issues? R-ight.) in question is not.

What we needed was to ask the authors of this memorandum regarding their intent, and I thank LengMeiMedia for doing precisely that. Really, guys. If you have more questions to ask, would this not be the most prudent course? Mr. Cabario specifically stated that if you don't ask compensation for your content, then you are not covered by this proposed bill. The compensation here is stated as "from the public", such as when you pay 10 bucks for a ringtone download. As such, sponsored posts don't even fall under this, since you don't charge your readers for these posts.

The bill is concocted in cooperation with the Securities Exchange Commission. This is a glaring signpost that this is about businesses, and they will, as such, be duly licensed. A personal blog is not a business. However, a valid question that remains to be asked of Mr. Cabario is how this will affect online content, particularly pay-per-view sites.

I don't even see what the worry is, on the part of bloggers. Do you see any stipulation how you can be punished if you don't register? There is nothing in the bill that can punish you adversely. The law, if enacted will prevent developers from developing content for a provider, but since they have no control over your provider since they're not a Philippine entity, then you are obviously not covered by it. They can't fine you or anything, but simply prevent you from being carried by a provider, but since they can't touch the provider in question, then there's nothing they can do to you.

The bill in its current form is in need of revisions, obviously. This is fine. Nobody gets it perfect the first time. If we have concerns, then we are very much free to ask questions from the NTC (Just look for their e-mail. It's on their site, I'm sure.), and I believe they will respond promptly enough. If you want a more personal approach, address the issue when the hearing is rescheduled.

But please, save the histrionics for some other time. The sky is not falling. If Mr. Cabarios's e-mail was any indication, at worst, they simply overlooked the online issue, and all we need do is clarify this, rather than crucify the government just because it seems to be the cool thing to do.

.:In Defense Of Ala Paredes...:.

Lynch mobs aren't cool. Really, they're not. Ask Tracy Borres. I'm sure she'd tell you it's not. It's so easy to ride the wave of an angry virtual lynch mob online, what with the anonymity or in the case of named people, apparent online power they possess, but in the end, we've devolved into an online culture of "shoot first, ask questions later".

Brian Gorell has never been the paragon of journalism. Let's face it: whether you like the guy or not, fact-checking was never one of his main strengths. That's precisely the reason why he posted a very scathing allegation regarding the Philippine Blog Awards, but never bothered to post a retraction when I personally sat down and explained to him via e-mail how the system worked, and even gave him more than enough contacts to verify my clarifications.

I didn't lash out at Brian despite the unfair light the post shed on the organizers of the PBA. I will try my best not to lash out at him this time as well, despite the fact that this is the second time I've seen him mouth off and bring someone down just because he felt like it. That, to me, is two times too many.

Define "hypocrisy". Is "hypocrisy" really about not doing enough for your fellow man? Or is "hypocrisy" about not doing enough for your fellow man while insisting somebody else ought to? Ala Paredes may be a lot of things, but a hypocrite, she is not. If anything, she was telling it like it is. Throwing the first stone is soooo passe. And people getting up on their high horses, trying to insult Ala for speaking her mind is just plain ignorance of what her initial post really was about.

In Nietzsche's critique of religion, he made a good point on the seemingly unreasonable stress on the "goodness" of suffering prevalent in religion, especially in folk Catholicism. Maybe it was because of Job, or because of Christ's sacrifice, but people seem to think that God ought to be a bloodthirsty God, and anyone who is suffering in this life is automatically good.

Newsflash: it's not.

There are rich people who are good. Plenty of them, in fact. Job was one of them, remember? Contrary to what your regular soap opera would tell you, the rich are not all capricious, craven monsters who look down on anyone not in their tax bracket. I know a lot of rich people who are as humble as humble can be.

On the flipside, there are poor people who are not good. Just because they are poor does not excuse them from stealing or killing. A crime is a crime is a crime. I'm sure we all love seeing rich and powerful criminals get their comeuppance (Mayor Sanchez, anyone?), but I don't see why someone gets a pass for being mean or cruel just because they're poor. Maybe I can cut them a bit of slack, and I wouldn't sue a beggar who gives me the finger the way I would sue, say, a senator who threatens to murder me, but in no way can I possibly say that what the beggar did was right. Sorry, but wrong, mean-spirited act is wrong and mean-spirited.

If this is me being the economic class equivalent of a "color-blind racist", then so be it. "Easy for you to say, you were never poor," some people might tell me. I'll admit that I'm not poor, but neither am I particularly rich. Not when I have to support myself. But really, just as I do get annoyed with elitists who have this odd sense of entitlement, I also do get annoyed with mendicants who have this odd sense of entitlement.

I live in Katipunan, so I know exactly what Ala means when she says that some mendicants can be incredibly pushy. I've been kicked, cussed at, and so forth, all because I refuse to give alms. Is this to say I don't give anything to charity? Well, actually, no. I've done multiple charity events over the past few years, as I strongly prefer to help a particular organization than an individual, because I have no idea if the 5 bucks I give to a mendicant would go to food or to rugby or to some syndicate.

Unlike Ala, though, I haven't been socially guilted into any kind of act of generosity I perform. This is not to imply that Ala only ever does charity out of guilt. Clearly, that's not the case. In my case, though, I do consciously make an effort to do my part, and I go through the proper avenues because while it's never enforced, mendicancy is actually illegal. I am full aware of what "white man's burden" means, and I wasn't handed a Messianic complex by my Theology Of Liberation experience or my immersion. If anything, it galvanized my solidarity with people, regardless of socio-economic class, which simply means: either way, you get no special treatment. You are treated with respect until you exhibit rudeness, and by then, you are treated with disdain from thereon.

That's precisely why I am very haughty with people trying to sell me stuff from Danvil Plans. They invade my personal space and proceed to ask me to buy insurance, never mind that my career as a magician who performs dangerous stunts tends to invalidate most insurance policies out there. These people simply won't take "no" for an answer!

That's precisely why I am very disdainful of certain politicians who use their power to attempt to quash the truth of an issue that concerns them. You did something wrong, now effing man up to it.

That's also precisely why I am incensed by the Katipunan taxi boys who will run in front of you to flag down a cab you are already flagging down, and then insist that you give money to them because they did something any able person with at least one hand can do. One of them even shamelessly asked me for money for "flagging down" a cab I was already boarding. As in he ran like the wind to get to me, tap the cab, and pretend he stopped the cab for the benefit of lil' ol' me. Except I was already inside the cab by the time he did that.

Argument ad misericordiam doesn't fly very well with me. Just because someone has more, they are not excused from towing the line. Neither can they be excused for having less. Mitigating factors? Perhaps. Absolving factors? Never.

Ala was perfectly free to express her opinion on the massive sense of entitlement some mendicants have exhibited towards her. To crucify her for her opinions which are founded on a personal experience is just ridiculous. So she went to a club and dressed up. Is this such a terrible thing? Since when did we disdain having a good time? Ala expressed her opinion, and she had a point. Whether or not you would've done the same thing if you were in her shoes is not quite the issue (I somehow doubt everyone who lashed out at her would really give their mask, though.). The issue is a beggar was being pushy, and she was well within her rights to refuse.

Social responsibility is not an excuse for mendicants to be mean-spirited to people who wouldn't give them what they want. There's an old saying that goes "beggars can't be choosers", yet we are witness to a bunch of them who are. I would rather do something charitable because it came from my heart, rather than because I was guilted into it by social responsibility and spurred by some smug sense of entitlement to alms and dole outs.

So to everyone who wants to condemn Ala, or bemoan how her dad "failed" in raising her right, why don't you read her words more closely and understand that not everything is black and white? Not all poor people are angels, the same way that not all rich people are spawns of Hades. Before you get on with the lynch mob spurned by some out-of-touch pundit who doesn't even know what the issue really is about, maybe you should look long and hard at yourself. Why are you angry that someone pointed out the elephant in the room? Is it because you don't have the nerve to tell it like it is?

Because seriously, as my blog has been saying for the past six or so years, though sometimes not everyone may like what you have to say, what matters is that It's True, It's True!

.:The End Of This Tirade...:.

Yeah, I went a helluva lot longer than I hoped to, but I think the point is clear: bloggers are indeed powerful. Some people in traditional media are understandably concerned about the sheer instantaneous strength of new media, and while we aren't really journalists, it's unfortunate, but some of us have been elevated to the status of opinion leaders. I wouldn't call it a privileged position, if only for the fact that it's quite a responsibility, but yes, there are plenty of bloggers now who could, with a single word, launch a thousand ships.

I know this would probably fall on deaf ears, but don't you think it's time we learned that with this great power comes great responsibility? How often do we jump the gun on an issue just because we have a pre-set opinion about someone or something, and even if facts would end up painting a different picture, we'd still split hairs, backpedal, and grasp at straws just so we don't lose face? How often do we judge a person without even sitting down to think if the person actually made a valid point? How often do we fight for free speech, yet insist somebody shut up on their own blog when their exercise of free speech clashes with our opinions? Isn't it sometimes a good idea to ask questions first before we bring out the pitchforks? Why is it that it seems the only forms of exercise certain bloggers have lately is flying off the handle and jumping to conclusions?

These are all rhetorical questions, I hope. Perhaps I've opened up a can of worms for some of us. I know I have for me. I know I have a lot more to learn, but with these past two issues, I realize that jumping the gun is not always the smartest course of action.


noemi said...

Last I heard, I knew at least 3 bloggers who went to that scheduled NTC hearing only to find out it was canceled. Public hearings are the venue to clarify the memorandum and I am looking forward to that.

Anyway, I don't see anything wrong with the bloggers raising their concerns in their blog. Besides they were not all talk. They actually went to NTC.

Marcelle said...

Allow me to reiterate that I have no problem with people who want to find out the facts.

What I have problems with, though, are knee-jerk reactions that rashly condemn and villify the NTC. The "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality.

If you feel that you are not one of those who did this, then that is probably because you aren't one of those who did this. I can count on one hand the people who are guilty of this, but they are prominent enough for me to hang my head in shame.

Marcelle said...

There is a big difference between saying "we need to be vigilant and look at this memorandum" and "those stupid government lackeys are at it again!"

If you have encountered solely the former, then I understand why you don't see my gripe. I, on the other hand, have encountered more of the latter.

Marocharim said...


There's nothing wrong with asking questions, but I tend to agree with you that many people in the blogosphere have the tendency to have a hive-mind. independent analysis and critical reasoning are absolutely necessary. not merely riding on the issues.

Marcelle said...

Oh, I never had a problem with people asking questions. It's the people who "Shoot first, ask questions later" that get to me.

Francis Acero said...

Hear, hear. I wonder though, how we can expect people to instill in themselves the mental discipline to have all the facts before making an opinion, when we can't do that for even the smallest things - like the tackiness of an outfit, for example.