Public Administration News
||Philippine Government Faces ICT Backlash
||Monday, November 22, 2010
Electronic and Mobile Government, Citizen Engagement
||Nov 22, 2010
The double-edged nature of ICT, particularly social media, came into
full view in the last few weeks here as a triple whammy of sorts led the
Philippine government to be bombarded with criticisms from the public.
It's been more than a month now since the first blunder surfaced on
the national scene involving the plagiarism charge hurled against
Supreme Court (SC) associate justice Mariano del Castillo. It was Del
Castillo who penned the decision in a case that contained legal precepts
that were allegedly lifted from the Internet.
The plagiarism accusation, which was contained in a formal case
filed by law firm partners Harry Roque and Rommel Bagares, attained a
new level of controversy when the high tribunal absolved Del Castillo of
any wrongdoing because of "lack of malicious intent", or at least on
the part of his legal research staff, to copy the works of foreign
Instead, the court pinned the blame on the Microsoft Word program,
saying it does not have a function that raises an alarm when original
materials are cut or pruned. "Given the operational properties of the
Microsoft program in use by the Court, the accidental decapitation of
attributions to sources of research materials is not remote," the court
This led Bagares to comment in a Facebook post that the decision should be "henceforth… known as the Microsoft defense."
The court, observers believed, uncharacteristically exculpated a
colleague with a rather weak reasoning. The controversy would have ended
swiftly if the tribunal acknowledged the error and offered an apology.
The second issue involved a young--and tactless--assistance
secretary for communications who tweeted inappropriate comments during a
recent state visit of President Aquino in Vietnam. In her tweets which
were picked up by the local media, Carmen "Mai" Mislang said the wine
served at a state dinner for Aquino "sucked" and that there were
virtually no "handsome" Vietnamese men. She also tweeted that "one of
the easiest ways to die" is to cross the motorcycle-filled streets of
In trying to sound cool and knowledgeable, Mislang came out rude and
ill-bred. Her comments, which could have been meant as personal
observations, was taken against her--and rightly so--because she was
part of the national delegation.
But, in a manner that is starting to become a hallmark of the
current administration, top government officials coldly shrugged off
calls for Mislang's removal or resignation and declared that the
wine-and-men connoisseur is there to stay at the palace.
Third and lastly, technology also played a big part in the botched,
or should I say doomed, launch of a new tourism campaign by the
government. The campaign's new slogan "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" (translated
to "Philippines So Beautiful") was met with a barrage of criticisms from
both the online and print media which branded the phrase as lacking in
creativity and impact.
A local blogger was also able to track down and compare the logo
used in the campaign which looked eerily similar to Poland's tourism
A day after the premature unveiling, the official site for the
tourism stunt was taken down by the government after a similar-sounding
Web site turned out to be a porn site. With Facebook users also taking
turns in lampooning the logo and the slogan, President Aquino had no
choice but to scrap the poorly crafted campaign two days later.
In all these missteps, it's disturbing to note that no one got
penalized. The SC justice was exonerated by his colleagues, the tweeting
government official remained in her post, and the tourism officials
responsible for the lousy campaign did not resign. If these things
happened in some other country, say South Korea, the officials concerned
would have resigned out of shame or, in some instances, committed
But, I hope the country's political maturity would come soon as we
can no longer afford this kind of irresponsibility among our government