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Philippine Government Faces ICT Backlash
Source: zdnetasia.com
Source Date: Monday, November 22, 2010
Focus: E-Procurement
Country: Philippines
Created: 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 authors.

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 said.

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 Vietnam.

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 logo.

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 suicide.

But, I hope the country's political maturity would come soon as we can no longer afford this kind of irresponsibility among our government officials.
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