Reaction: Philippines License to BLOG?

Why do I write?

A large part of it is psychotherapy for my overloaded gray matter. Tata says that I think too much that he fears for my sanity, which could snap any time if I mull and percolate for a great part of the day. And this concerned person who has tattoos on both biceps and bellybutton area even asks if I sleep at all because each time he has to go to the bathroom to drain his kidneys in the middle of the night, he sees me with eyes staring bug-eyed at the ceiling, deep in thought.

I think too much, and that’s why I am thankful that writing was discovered or invented because, at least, I have an outlet for the thoughts jostling around my head like a pack of sugarhigh kids with ADHD. At least, twenty plus years on, I’m still sane, to some degree, at least.

Writing allows some of the thoughts to the surface, where they could do their hyperactive attack on paper, in a computer monitor, on a sheet of white paper wedge between a typewriter’s roller and the bar that keeps the paper flat while the types tattoo letters on the white surface. Keyboards, pencils, and pens. Watermans, Pilot GTec, Mongol 2, Dell, Arrow. Whatever the medium is, writing serves as one of the best tools for connecting heart, mind, and soul in one body. It raises awareness, it unravels the snarls of confusing thoughts. It transforms vague ideas into clear proposals, enabling one to make the best decisions.

And guess what, dear reader? It’s one of the three things that set us humans apart from the other members of the Animal Kingdom (the other two, as far as I am currently aware of, are speech and making love while facing each other, as is the general case; hermit crabs do face each other during their pre-mating ritual, and there are couples I know who have odd habits behind closed bedroom doors).

It’s is really a bliss to live in a democratic Republic where the constitution safeguards my freedom of expression (Art. 3, Sec. 4; Philippine Constitution, 1987).

But (and there is always a “but” or an “on the contrary”) what say you if there are entities who see this one unalienable right of personal expression as a potential cash cow?

I saw the fly on the frosting when Lurchie posted disturbing news of things to come in the Philippine online community; she came across it from another blog, Aileen Polo’s An Apple a Day. A proposed memorandum, claimed to be drawn by those nice fellows over at the National Telecommunications Commission. Here’s an excerpt of the proposed memo:

NOW, THEREFORE, pursuant to RA7925, Executive Order (EO) No. 546 series of 1979, and in order to encourage and facilitate the development of contents and the provision thereof to the consumers, the National Telecommunications Commission (Commission) hereby promulgates the following guidelines:

A.      DEFINITIONS
1. The following terms as used in this Circular shall have the following definitions:
a. Content – refers to all types of contents delivered to/accessed by the users/subscribers such as music, ring tones, logos, video clips, etc.
b. Information – refers to all types of information delivered to/accessed by the users/subscribers, e.g. road traffic information, financial information, visa application information, etc.
c. Application – refers to all types of applications delivered to/accessed by the users/subscribers, e.g. mobile banking, electronic payments, point of sale service, etc.
d. Electronic Game – refers to games played online except gambling.
e. Contents Providers – are persons or entities offering and providing contents to the public for compensation through the networks, systems and/or facilities of authorized networks, systems and/or facilities providers.
f. Information Providers – are persons or entities offering and providing information to the public for compensation through the networks, systems and/or facilities of authorized networks, systems and/or facilities providers.
g. Applications Providers – are persons or entities offering and providing applications to the public for compensation through the networks, systems and/or facilities of authorized networks, systems and/or facilities providers.
h. Electronic Games Providers – are persons or entities offering and providing electronic games to the public for compensation through the networks, systems and/or facilities of authorized networks, systems and/or facilities providers.
i. Contents Developers – are persons or entities creating contents.
j. Information Sources – are persons or entities providing information to Information Providers.
k. Applications Developer – are persons or entities creating applications.
l. Electronic Games Developer – are persons or entities creating electronic games.

B REGISTRATION
1. Contents, Information, Applications and/or Electronic Games Providers, Contents Developers, Information Sources, Applications Developers, and Electronic Games Developers are required to have commercial presence in the country and shall secure Certificate of Registration (COR) from the Commission.

2. There shall be no nationality requirement for contents, information, applications and/or electronic games providers, contents, applications and/or electronic games developers and information sources.

3. The application for registration shall be filed and acted upon by the Commission not later than seven (7) working days from date of application.

4. The application shall include the following documents:
a. Valid registration from the Securities and Exchange Commission or from the Department of Trade and Industry and Articles of Incorporation;
b. Facilities lease agreement with duly enfranchised and certificated public telecommunications entity; and

5. The Certificate of Registration shall be valid for a maximum period of five (5) years. Applicants for registration may opt to apply for shorter period not shorter than one (1) year. Certificates of Registration shall be renewable.

D FEES AND CHARGES
1. The following fees and charges shall be imposed:

a. Filing Fee : PhP 300.00
b. Annual Registration Fee: 6,000.00
c. Surcharge for late : 50% of the annual registration fee if application
filing of application is filed within six (6) months from date of expiry
for renewal 100% if filed after six (6) months from date of expiry

E RATES
1. The rates shall be deregulated. The contents, information, applications and/or electronic games provider shall inform the Commission of the rates for each of the content, information, application or electronic game offered at least three (3) days prior to the offering of such content, information, application or electronic game. Contents, information, applications and/or electronic games providers seeking increases in rates shall inform the Commission of the details of such increases at least five (5) days prior to the implementation of the increase. The Commission in the exercise of its mandate to protect consumers may not allow the increase. If the Commission does not act on the information within five (5) days from receipt of the same, the contents, information, applications and/or electronic games provider can impose the new rates.

Charming. Makes my nose bleed. Ms. Polo had consulted her lawyer father of what is meant by “to encourage and facilitate the development of contents,” and her dad had said that it basically involved anything online — games, websites, social networking sites, and if you care to leave a comment in this post, then that comment will cost you as what Ms. Polo understood of the memo.

Really sweet.

Cash cow.

Income-generating project for the flagging economy, if I say so myself.

It may be too early to fly off the handle. It may be that the NTC guys and gals will be targeting the online gaming community only. But hey, if it all boils down to encouraging and facilitating the development of contents, then this memorandum will be one sick joke. Regulating the use of contents, information, applications…. hey… are we back to square one of the Spanish Inquisition or the Dark Ages?

WordPress offers their blogging platform to us mortals for FREE. Facebook is FREE. DOTA, as far as I’m aware, is FREE. Heck, if I want to, I could log on to a social networking site and find myself a groom from across the continent… if I want to… and the cost of that is just probably less than 20 Philippine pesos paid to the Internet cafe — but the social networking site would find me a match across the world, three time zones away, nevermind the language barrier for FREE.

It will come full circle. The fees imposed will take be a burden on those who are involved with matters enumerated in Section A of the memorandum. Thus, with the fees, the annual registration, and the pressure of the due dates, these will all take its toll. The pleasure of providing content, information, services, etc., for the patrons or “consumers” will be replaced with dull helplessness and the realization that, with the effort that government requires of these content providers to register their activities, it may no longer be worth it and so stop providing the service, stop providing content. Shut down. Reboot. Move to the Bahamas where the sun is brighter and the laws are less ambiguous.

I don’t earn anything from this blog, nor am I planning to in the near future. As I’ve said earlier, this is my special brand of psychotherapy. Nevertheless, the thought of some people actually planning to cash in on my own freedom of expression raises my hackles.

How many noses over at the NTC bled so as to come up with this memorandum?

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