Sunday, July 10, 2005

Stick to due process

I started lobbying in 1998. It was tediuos but it paid off as the laws we pushed for were passed in 1999 (Y2K Law) and 2000 (E-Commerce Law). One unforgettable moment was the signing of the E-Commerce Law (June 14, 2000) by former President Joseph Estrada.

After the signing, I was called by Senator Magsaysay and introduced to the President with kind words about the work we've put in for the law. He greeted me and said, "ok yang ginagawa niyo." The President invited us for a group picture-taking session after former DTI Secretary (now Senator) Mar Roxas introduced Paco Sandejas.

Afterwards, the President tapped my shoulder and said, "Tuloy niyo yang ginagawa niyo. Kung may kailangan pang batas, i-sige niyo lang." I never took that event seriously and saw it as a usual nice PR coming from a public official.

The Erap scandal came in later and there was increasing pressure for the Philippine Internet Commerce Society then to take a position and follow what other IT organizations have done, asking him to step down from office. I refused and got a lot of bashing from my own mailing list.

My reasons were very practical and principled to my mind. I have lobbied for laws and experienced working in the bureaucratic Congress system. I believe in its due process and have the highest faith that Congress will get through this, no matter what biases they may have in the beginning.

It is the challenge among lobbyists, industry, and individuals to push for their agenda, to influence opinion and mindset among these people. Each one of us, guilty or not, is entitled to that due process of law.

As we all know, the impeachment process failed due to impatience by certain legislators and sectors, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo rose to power. A few months after, she became the chairman of the now-defunct Information Technology and E-Commerce Council (ITECC).

I was head of the ITECC legal cluster and attended a Malacang 7 a.m. meeting one time then, chaired by PGMA. As I was giving an update on what we've done and the challenges we're facing, she interrupted twice and disrespected me. It is not what she said but how she said it. Raising her eyebrows and twisting her hands while speaking, questioning about the process we're following. I'm almost tempted then to tell her that things will move fast if she is the one who gives the instruction, simply because she's the President. In our case, we have to work in the system and know that we can't impose to our allies in government, but work in a collaborative, friendly, and professional relationship. Good thing before reaching that point, former DTI Secretary Mar Roxas changed the topic.

After that meeting, I knew then that I can't serve ITECC any no longer if PGMA thought that all of us in that meeting are desperate to meet or work with her at 7 am in the morning, swallow her arrogance, and allow her to belittle the volunteer work we're doing.

That is the time I realized that my encounter with former President Estrada, during the E-Commerce Law's signing, was worth remembering.

I must say that ITECC went down the hill in PGMA's time and CICT today is stepping on a lot of various government agency's mandate/charter, without due regard to existing laws such as the E-Commerce Law. It created a confusion or status quo that derailed the law's implementation. It is bad.

Given the scandals PGMA is facing today, the temptation is high to just call for her resignation or have her ejected from office. However, there's a great need to set our feelings aside and let due process take place. As concern citizens, what we can do is ensure that no one will manipulate it as it turns to be a battle for conscience, hearts, and minds.

To PGMA's credit, I'm amazed as to how she has mastered the 48 Laws of Power. If you haven't read it, get a copy of that book and you'll see what I mean.

Let due process take place so that we can mature as a country and build our faith in the system that we are all responsible for, whether we are part of EDSA 1 and 2 or not. (I'm not)

By going through this pain can real changes and reform take place. Hopefully, subjecting ourselves to this will allow us to have a wise electorate in the future and more consciencious politicians. It may also lead to the 3rd alternative, where what is best for the country shall be agreed upon by all.