Yesterday’s public senate hearing was pretty much an exercise in futility. Some of the questions of the senators were misleading at best, and while I abhor Jamby Madrigal to hell and back, she probably asked some of the more decent questions. It was, at best, a media circus that pretty much reached its climax when the senators called in Kho, Belo’s representative, and Katrina Halili in for questioning.
That was when an ex-policeman, in righteous indignation, dumped water on top of Hayden Kho.
I don’t really care about the hearing itself. Kho could rot in jail for all I care, and I still think that Halili’s playing the damsel in distress role to the ground. But this stupid series of events is important in that it is a portent of how the Philippine government is finally going to react to Web 2.0 and the free flow of information in the modern world.
See, the most basic problem here is that within weeks, the video of Kho was made accessible to millions of Pinoys throughout the world (not just the Philippines; the sex video can be found on Spankwire, for example). From the perspective of the pedestrian, this is insufferable – just think of your wives and female children (a point emphasized by the man who dumped water on Kho). Call it a dramatic point, but it still remains a reality.
That this isn’t the first instance of the proliferation of so-called “sex scandals” from the Philippines doesn’t do anything to help this point of view, either. In all honesty, unless you spend a good majority of your life online (like me), you’d probably find readily-available pornography on the Internet outrageous, wrong and just plain gross. Logically, the correct thing to do when faced with the probable deluge of unsuitable information is to clamor for some safekeeping guidelines that will keep the casual surfer safe from online porno.
The problem in the Philippines is that the representation of Internet regulation laws is weak, if not nonexistent. And the Philippine government actually promotes this – IT companies enjoy special tax benefits from the government because their foreign investors rely on the unregulated flow of information to keep things running. Hell, BPOs can’t work on porn sites if there was a tight grip on the ‘net here in the Philippines. In other words, the government actually makes money from the free Internets.
What the Kho scandals did, though, is bring the obvious to the public eye. Pornography on the ‘net is real and widespread, and if we don’t do anything about it, people who exploit local women via digital form can and will make money from it via the web. Now, this is just me, but what I believe is that due to the upcoming elections next year, what the Pinoy government is doing is seriously scrutinizing the feasibility of erecting a means of keeping a check on what somebody living on the Philippines posts on the Internet.
See where this is headed? Knowing how half-baked the government is on planning and implementation, once they come up with their Internet regulation bill, it will be as vague as it is ineffective. This will probably lead to the creation of a new government body whose sole purpose is to police the web. This body will most likely be just as corrupt as the rest of the government is. Which makes one question just how effective and how honest this institution’s rulings will be.
And that doesn’t even take into account the procedure these guys will use. Should the senate committee come up with such an Internet regulation bill, I foresee dark times ahead for everybody relying on the Internet for their livelihoods.
Fortunately, we’re talking about the Philippines here. If the senate goes its usual pace on deciding whether or not this situation deserves looking into, there’s a big possibility that the study will go well into next year. Once the election shuffles the senate, the likelihood that any and all bills proposed late this year will be shelved for the next four years at least, until such a time when another senator looking for a way to creep into the hearts of their constituents goes through the archives during a brainstorming session.