The Dark Ages

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By Mags Z. Maglana

The Point Being

Friday, February 28, 2014


NO, THIS is not just about the massive power outage that hit Mindanao on February 27, 2014. People in Davao City, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, North Cotabato, Bukidnon, Maguindanao, Zamboanga City, Butuan City, General Santos City, South Cotabato, Cagayan de Oro City, and Sultan Kudarat woke up to a blackout situation (hence the quip about the Dark Ages) that started at past 3 a.m.

As of late afternoon of the same day, the Department of Energy could not provide a full explanation except to say that a tripped line might have caused the outage.

The scale of the area hit by the blackout and the perception that government and electric providers seemed to be not in the know are making Mindanaoans more apprehensive. Talks had previously been circulating about the expected power shortage in Mindanao during the coming dry season months and the anticipated rotating 3-hour brownouts.

Grumbling was louder in places like Davao City where not only was there no power, but there was also no water. Davaoeños worried about the ability of the Davao City Water District (DCWD) to provide access to potable water reliably, which prompted a tongue-in-cheek comment alluding to the onset of the "dark and smelly ages".

The other development that connects to the notion of the Dark Ages concerns the recent ruling of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the provision that penalizes cyber libel, viewed as one of the most controversial provisions of the Cybercrime Protection Act (RA 10175). The law was passed in 2012 to respond to online acts such as fraud, identity theft, spamming and child pornography.

However the law had come under fire prompting a legal challenge that led to the issuance by the Philippine Supreme Court of a temporary restraining order.

Cyberactivists and advocates of the freedom of expression protested against what they referred to as the 10 Commandments of the Philippine Cybercrime Law (http://asia.cnet.com/blogs/the-10-commandments-of-the-philippines-cyberc...): 1) You shall only say nice things on the Internet; 2)You cannot tell the Truth, whether joking or seriously, if it hurts someone; 3)What you say can be held against you forever; 4)What you like can also be held against you; 5)The government now has the power to take down your Internet; 6)Your Internet is required to compile evidence against you; 7)You can be punished more harshly for online crimes than for real life crimes; 8)You must trust the government to do the right thing in implementing the law; 9)The law shall apply to all Filipinos wherever they are;10) The law doesn't really protect you.

The Supreme Court's recent ruling clarified that sharing and liking on social network pages do not constitute cyberlibel.

However, groups still liken RA 10175 to e-Martial Law, threatening the democratic values of freedom of speech and expression, and the right to privacy of Internet users.

The reactions to the column of Yoly Villanueva-Ong that said "It's the final curtain call for the Left" was another recent thread on the Internet that to me seemed Dark Age-ish. Interestingly titled "How the Left was lost" the writer of the February 21 Rappler Thought Leaders column said, "The ideology has become meaningless tautology. The cause is tainted with pragmatism and contradiction. The passion now sounds contrived. Tenacity has turned into pigheadedness."

The following week, the February 27 Thought Leaders column featured the thoughts of former party-list representative Mong Palatino. Palatino pointed that with respect to the raging issues of online libel, the president's pork, and soaring electricity prices, "The Left is actively and directly involved in opposing all these issues whether as petitioners in the Supreme Court, oppositionists in Congress, and consumers condemning the inaction and/or wrong actions of the government."

In her piece, Yoly Ong articulated the view of those exasperated with not only the lack of progress in the peace talks between government and the CPP-NDF-NPA but also the determination of the latter to continue attacks against the State -- "Many ask, why bother to negotiate peace? Just exterminate the dwindling force permanently!"

Palatino cautioned that this "mentality is the reason why many activists have been harassed, abducted, and killed with impunity even post-martial law and during the supposedly democratic regimes that followed."

I find this thread starkly juxtaposed against the backdrop of the 28thanniversary of the 1986 Edsa Revolution. Regardless of where one lies in any political and ideological debate, one's life and liberty should not be put at risk. Not by lack of electricity, not by cyberlibel, and certainly not by impunity.

That is, unless we find no problems with having this period of the Philippines labeled as our Dark Ages in the 21st century, a period of "intellectual darkness and barbarity".

*****

Email feedback to magszmaglana@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 01, 2014.

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