June 1-15, 2021

The Digital Rights Roundup, published by the Foundation for Media Alternatives, contains regular updates on what Filipinos need to know about their digital rights.

Internet speed accelerates in May

The Philippines’ internet speed continued to accelerate in May as compared to the prior month due to the aggressive expansion of fiber networks. Ookla Speedtest Global Index reported fixed broadband speed increased from 49.31 megabits per second (Mbps) to 58.73 Mbps last month. Read more here.

Regulatory safeguards in PSA bill needed — PCC

A competition commissioner is pushing lawmakers to add regulatory safeguards against national security risks that some senators believe may arise as a result of a priority bill that would allow more foreign investment in the telecommunications and transportation industries. Read more here.

House approves internet data allocation bill on final reading

The House of Representatives passed House Bill No. 9057, also referred as the proposed “Roll-Over Internet Act,” on final reading on Tuesday, allowing consumers to roll over their internet data allocation. A total of 244 lawmakers voted to pass the bill, which attempts to regulate and institutionalize the roll-over data allocation scheme, with no opposition. Read more here.

Lower House allows Internet publication for laws to take effect

The House of Representatives has passed a measure authorizing changes to the publication requirements of a newly-signed law in response to the current national emergency situation on final reading. House Bill 9269 was passed with 205 affirmative votes and zero negative votes on June 2.  The measure allows for the publication of new laws in either online or print versions. Read more here

Converge buys PLDT’s Luzon cable landing stations in pivotal move

Dennis Anthony Uy of Converge ICT Solutions Inc., is paying $7.5 million to acquire PLDT Inc.’s international cable landing stations in Luzon, giving it control of critical internet gateways to the country. Converge said in a stock exchange statement on Thursday that it has signed separate deals to buy Digitel Crossing Inc. from PLDT subsidiary Digital Telecommunications Phils. Inc. Read more here

Rio scoffs at claim of DICT that VSAT provides ‘cheaper, faster’ Internet access

Eliseo Rio Jr., a former undersecretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), challenged the DICT’s claim that Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) technology brings cheaper and faster Internet to distant areas of the country on Tuesday, June 1. Read more here.

Digital transactions soar in PH as Pinoys turn to e-payment amid Covid-19 crisis

Digital transactions in the Philippines are on the rise, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), with the public turning to electronic payment facilities to make financial transactions safely amid the health crisis. When compared to the same month in 2020, total PesoNet and InstaPay transactions increased by 276 percent in volume and 127 percent in value in April of this year. Read more here.

Online lending: Inside the ops of a debt-collection service

According to a report on “24 Oras” on Wednesday by John Consulta, the employees would contact clients with their company-issued cellphones and follow a script warning them that agents would alert contacts in their phonebooks if they were unable to pay within a certain time frame. Read more here

NPC cites PasigPass, asks LGUs to meld data privacy in contact-tracing apps

Pasig City, one of the first local government units (LGUs) to deploy a contact-tracing app for a more effective Covid-19 response and to use printed QR codes for poor residents, has been recognized by the National Privacy Commission (NPC) for its efforts to improve compliance with the Data Privacy Act (DPA). Read more here

Concerns on data privacy issues hamper DOJ probe on drug war

Due to data privacy concerns, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra stated that the DOJ is having difficulty obtaining full cooperation from law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in its drug war review. Due to possible penalties under the Data Privacy Act, Guevarra said the PNP and PDEA are reconsidering completely collaborating with the DOJ-led drug war review. Read more here.

Facebook to bar politicians from posting deceptive content, says report

According to news website The Verge, Facebook wants to remove an exemption for politicians that permits them to post information that is deemed false or offensive, and would subject them to the same standards as regular users. According to the news site, the contentious exemption granted to politicians under the guise of their posts being newsworthy could be lifted as soon as this week on the major social media platform. Read more here.

Inquirer justice reporter red-tagged by NTF-ELCAC spox

On his Facebook page last 3 February 2021, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., spokesman for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), red-tagged INQUIRER.net’s justice beat reporter Tetch Torres-Tupas for the latter’s report on the petition of jailed Aetas before the Supreme Court. Parlade said that a journalist can be held accountable under the anti-terror law for “aiding terrorists by propagating lies,” calling Tupas’ report “false” and “propaganda.” Read more here.

NPC, Comelec flag 2022 elections survey website for possible phishing

The National Privacy Commission (NPC) issued a warning on Friday about phishing attacks on a website that conducted a survey for the 2022 elections, claiming that respondents may have provided sensitive personal information. NPC Chairman Raymund Liboro said the website Pilipinas2022.ph is being investigated after respondents were asked to disclose personal information in order to participate in the survey. Read more here

5 teeners rescued from online sexual exploitation

During separate entrapment and rescue operations against online sexual exploitation in Mandaluyong City on May 24 and Taguig City on May 26, the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center rescued five youths, four of whom were minors, and detained two perpetrators. Read more here.

No room for delays in building internet infrastructure — Poe

Senator Grace Poe on Friday urged telecommunication firms, local governments, and homeowners associations to expedite the construction of required infrastructure for internet access, particularly in places where signals are weak or non-existent. The chairperson of the Senate public services committee reiterated her call, citing the Philippines’ improved world standing in terms of interned speed. Read more here.

DICT wants to use SUF to fund digital infrastructure programs

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has announced that spectrum user fees (SUF) will be used as a “capital outlay” to fund the agency’s digital infrastructure activities. In addition to other existing taxes established by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), SUF are collected annually from mobile network operators (MNOs). Read more here.

Lapid files bill creating mobile app to provide gov’t information, services

Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid has introduced a bill to build the Transcendent Unified Government Mobile Application (TUGMA), an internet platform for all federal agencies and instrumentalities. The app is designed to make obtaining government information or services easier for users by providing basic information such as contact information, requirements, citizen charters, news, bulletins, and other useful information about the country’s major frontline government services and their associated agencies. Read more here.

Hold Independence Day protests online – Eleazar

COVID-19 remains a threat to public health and safety, according to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, who urged cause-oriented groups to conduct their Independence Day protests online. Instead of going outside, where they are vulnerable to COVID-19, the PNP chief advised demonstrators to use Zoom and other social media platforms. Read more here.

Alibaba Cloud unveils plan to build data center in PH

Alibaba Cloud announced on Tuesday that it will develop a data center in the Philippines to help the country’s digital transformation and to expand its footprint in Asia. Alibaba Group’s digital technology and intelligence backbone announced in a press briefing that a new data center will be built in Manila this year, expanding the scope of the company’s services in the country. Read more here

Better online market will create jobs for women – DOLE official

A Philippine labor official said at a webinar hosted by the think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) that the online labor market, or so-called platform economy, has a big potential to offer job possibilities for women. Read more here.

100 international groups write to SC, DOJ over ‘questionable warrants’

Over 100 foreign organizations, religious groups, and individuals have joined the Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong in asking the Philippines’ two highest justice officials to intervene in protecting activists and human rights workers from the harmful impacts of red-tagging. Read more here.

Philippines urged to hone, upskill cybersecurity experts

The Philippine Institute of Cyber Security Professionals (PICSPro) stated that the country needs to train new cybersecurity specialists and upskill current practitioners as threats grow and competence remains “disproportionately inadequate.” Read more here.

9 fake PhilSys sites, service providers identified

The Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) is on the lookout for unusual behavior, such as fake websites that falsely claim to be associated with the project. This prompted the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the program’s principal implementer, to issue a recent notice identifying the nine venues and service providers. Read more here

Data governance to address COVID-19 pushed

Representatives from the Department of Health (DOH), academia, and business are pushing for digital solutions to improve the country’s healthcare system, manage COVID-19 cases, and keep track of vaccine side effects. Strong data governance, according to Dr. Alethea De Guzman, OIC-Director of the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau, will promote more efficient administration of COVID-19 cases and strengthen links between national and local government entities in managing cases. Read more here.

Is the official behind troll farms also into in red-tagging? – Bayan Muna lawmaker

In a statement released on Tuesday, Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite raised questions, a day after Sen. Panfilo Lacson revealed that an undersecretary had approached a former member of his staff seeking assistance in organizing at least two troll farms per province to discredit opposition groups running candidates in the 2022 national elections. Read more here

Social media key to election campaign amid pandemic — poll watchdog

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) is urging Filipinos to be wary of fake news and misinformation on social media, which will play a crucial role in the next 2022 elections. PPCRV Executive Director Maribel Buenaobra told CNN Philippines’ The Final Word that social media had a significant role in the last two elections, saying that it was utilized to disseminate information, whether false or not. Read more here.

DICT latest member of interagency intellectual property committee

The National Committee on Intellectual Property Rights (NCIPR), which is chaired by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), has welcomed the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) as its newest member, which will help address online threats to intellectual property (IP) rights protection. Read more here.


Join us in Twitter Hour: A Session with FMA on Comics Culture in the Philippines, with guest speakers Marian Hukom and Kevin of Tarantadong Kalbo on June 25, 2021, Friday, 7:00 PM (PH Time) via Twitter Spaces.

This session will focus on their experience as to how they interpret complex topics to sets of visuals and dialogues in boxes – from researching, conceptualizing, drafting, and finalizing the content. We would also like to shed enough light on their process of making their platforms to what it is at present-showing their opinions on social issues through comics.

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The UP Internet Freedom Network (UP INTERNET) is an alliance of students and volunteers advocating for internet freedom. You may e-mail them at upinternet.org@protonmail.com for inquiries.

DOWNLOAD: On Independence Day protests, social media campaigning, and digital infrastructure programs: The FMA Digital Rights Roundup (June 1-15, 2021)

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