Thursday, February 18, 2021

Conversation with Sen. Leila, detainee (1)

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

No need for an introduction here because Sen. Leila de Lima’s answers to my questions give the whys and wherefores of her being in detention for four years. Hear ye!


Q. As the 4th anniversary of your detention draws near what thoughts and feelings are uppermost in your mind and heart? What was it like on the first days, what is it like now?


A.  Feb. 24, 2021 will mark my 4th year as a person deprived of liberty—1,462 days of injustice. How I long for my family and the simple things I used to enjoy outside.


I recall being sleepless on my first nights inside Camp Crame. But each passing day has made me stronger. Now, I sleep soundly knowing I’m fighting for what is right. Always on my mind is my intense vow to be vindicated for

my family to keep carrying with dignity the De Lima name.


Back then, there was a very palpable sense of surreality: how could this blatant abuse of the criminal justice system be allowed to happen so publicly and with undisguised impunity? Part of me kept on thinking this can’t be happening, and even as it quickly dawned on me that I really was being arrested and unjustly detained—part of me continued to have some confidence that the institutions put in place to check these abuses would correct this huge injustice. To be candid, the most painful part was not the attacks from my political enemies and those who hold a grudge against me for my track record for fighting corruption and abuses of power. It was in the weaponization of the people’s voice and of the justice system. These were the things I fought for, and they were manipulated and corrupted as a weapon to silence political dissent.


One by one the witnesses against me crumble. With that thought, the strongest feeling now is anticipation of my personal vindication and for the return of my liberty, which will allow me to keep fighting for human rights. But most of all, anticipation for the triumph of justice and democracy for all Filipinos.


Q.  What it is like to be in solitary confinement?


This has made me more contemplative and prayerful. Sticking to a daily routine and allowing myself moments of stillness has made my intuitions and thought processes sharper.


Q. Why do you consider your detention and the cases filed against you unjust and/or illegal?


The cases against me were built on fabricated lies. Orchestrated stories of my alleged links to the illegal drug trade within the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), put together by a cabal of operators on Duterte’s orders. But no amount of lies will change the fact that I am innocent. There are worldwide calls for my release because they know the truth that I’m politically persecuted for speaking truth to power in defense of human rights and social justice.


Q. Please describe the cases against you and why they should be dropped.


I’m facing three cases of conspiracy to commit illegal drug trading before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court. Criminal Case Nos. 17-165 and 17-166 are being heard at Branch 205, with the Prosecution having concluded their presentation of evidence. Criminal Case No. 17-167, meanwhile, is being handled by Branch 256 which has so far only heard seven of the Prosecution’s intended 36 witnesses.


The following case developments serve to prove my innocence:


1.   There’s no corpus delicti or body of the crime, meaning, the kind or volume of alleged drugs that is a basic premise for any drugs case was never identified.


2.   There’s no money or paper trail linking me to any illegal drug transactions.

 3.   There’s no conspiracy because in the first place, no one has admitted to being a co-conspirator who has personal knowledge of illegal drug transactions, let alone to dealing with me personally.

 4.   There’s no drug case, instead, what became apparent was (1) a kidnap-for-ransom case involving crooked cops who extorted money from a Bilibid convict whose niece they kidnapped; and (2) a bribery case involving Bureau of Corrections officials who took money from convicts in exchange for certain favors—neither of which had anything to do with illegal drugs, let alone with me.

 5.   There’s no credible testimony from witnesses who are mostly Bilibid inmates—their accounts were mere hearsay, riddled with inconsistencies and without any proof.

 (To be continued)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

QR-ed, ID-ed, bar coded, tracked, tagged


Philipine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Wired magazine published the article “Digital IDs are more dangerous than you think” by Brett Solomon, founder of a global conference that addresses human rights in the digital age. It says that digital identification systems are meant to aid the marginalized but actually, they are ripe for abuse. More later.

Why am I thinking of the military’s sloppy intelligence gathering and red-tagging of critics of the present dispensation?

There is no escaping the fact that the current coronavirus pandemic and other events have a way of turning us individual human beings into digital data that could be stored, retrieved, downloaded, uploaded and deleted like some electronic bits. Out there, there exist proofs of our being that enable us to engage in certain humanly activities otherwise not allowed those who cannot prove who they are with only laminated IDs.

Proof of our existence on this planet now requires, in many instances, digital identity. According to what I have read, “Digital identity is the body of information about an individual, organization or electronic device that exists online. Unique identifiers and use patterns make it possible to detect individuals or their devices.”

Yes, individuals and/or their devices. Else why would I get a notice on my cell phone about when and where I was this past month, and with pictures of the places at that! I have yet to learn to undo this creepy stalking.

A city in Metro Manila has an ordinance requiring visitors to have a QR code that would serve the city’s contact tracing efforts. So starting February 15, guards in the city’s establishments “shall implement the NO QR NO Entry regulation.”

A friend mused: “While valuable for contact tracing in the time of COVID-19, we are naturally suspicious of how this government will use these tags.”

No microchips yet, I jested. Correct, she replied, like having GPS in the body, like Jason Bourne (in the movie trilogy) in whom a microchip had been imbedded and which later had to be torn out of his flesh.

But remember, early conspiracy theories circulated in social media had already warned about microchips in the anti-coronavirus vaccine. Preposterous, yes, but people suffering from pandemic-induced paranoia became even more fearful of the vaccine. To start with, people already worried about personal info they had to write on slips of paper before they could be allowed to go in any public place with a door. Worried because who knows in whose data bank the gathered info will end up.

But this much is true, we are increasingly moving into some kind of Orwellian future where Big Brother is always watching. Not so unlike the ubiquitous CCTV cameras that while being a boon to crime solving and prevention they also caused people’s privacy to be compromised.

I just received my Quezon City online digital ID that pops up on my phone screen with a tap. It has a QR code while my UMID card has only a bar code. Suddenly I thought of the chips in ATM and credit cards that may also be carrying so-called identifiers. And that somewhere out there are imprints of ourselves stored in some data bank—the whorls on our thumbs, the design in our irises, the contours on our faces—that had been captured for some temporary ID and data base while we were in this or that high-security gathering abroad or on a cruise ship. Next, our DNA.

Solomon writes: “From airports to health record systems, technologists and policy makers with good intentions are digitizing our identities, making modern life more efficient and streamlined…But as someone who has tracked the advantages and perils of technology for human rights over the past ten years, I am nevertheless convinced that digital ID, writ large, poses one of the gravest risks to human rights of any technology that we have encountered.” Over time, he adds, the risks will become more severe.

 “For starters, we are building near-perfect facial recognition technology and other identifiers, from the human gait to breath to iris. Biometric data bases are being set up in such a way that these individual identifiers are centralized, insecure, and opaque. Then there is the capacity of geo-location of identifiers—that is the tracking of the digital ‘you’—in real time. A constant feed of insecure data from the Internet of Things may well connect you (and your identity) to other identities and nodes on the network without your consent.”

There is more to send shivers down our spine. #

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Vax day dry runs and other vexations

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

I always have this nasty feeling that some agencies tasked to put order and safety in our lives end up messing up if not making life difficult for us Filipinos. My frequent refrain: Ang galing ninyo magpahirap ng tao. (You are such experts in making life difficult for people.) That said, let me ruminate.

Here in Metro Manila earthquake drills had been held regularly in the past in anticipation of the Big One that has yet to shake and rattle our lives but which experts say is a matter of not if but when. These drills have now been put aside because of other natural calamities that recently visited our lives, some of them unprecedented and catching us ill-prepared.

And so this once-in-a-hundred-years virus pandemic that has been running for one year all over the world should no longer stun and petrify the likes of us. After almost a year and more than 10,000 coronavirus-caused deaths in the Philippines, Filipinos should have gotten the hang of it and continue to obsessively observe health protocols. No, people are beginning to get lax and throwing caution to the wind by cavorting with bare faces, despite the so-called new strain of the virus crash landing on our shores.

With the imminent arrival of the vaccine, a new day is dawning, to use a cliché, but are we—the vaccinators, the willing vaccinees and those in charge of delivering the goods to our 7,000 or so humanly inhabited islands—prepared for the monumental process?  Or will we be falling all over ourselves like we do whenever there are new processes that involve crowds and queues, novel systems that need smooth implementation, discipline and order? Do we have enough systems specialists (or whatever they are called) or chaos control experts?

Look at the chaos that happened in the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) when it was announced that RFID compliance would be required, that is, no more cash payments in the privately-run tollways. Valenzuela City where the traffic nightmare happened got the mayor so riled up he had to step in and call out the tollway people.

I commend the Ayala-run AutoSweep system (for SLEX etc.) for an orderly process. I got my RFID sticker from the Ayala Mall at Cloverleaf in Quezon City. But for EasyTrip (for NLEX etc.) I had to ask someone to please use my car and get my RFID sticker from either the Balintawak or Tabang exit as I had yet no plan to drive northward and how was I going to turn back? Irate motorists ask, why not one RFID for both?

Remember the requirement of a plastic barrier between two people (couples mostly) riding in tandem on motorcycles? That was to prevent the virus from being passed on from rider to back rider or vice versa and, in most cases, from spouse to spouse who sleep together in one bed every day of their married lives. Who was the genius…

Now comes the not-so-new requirement of protective child seats in cars so suddenly sprung at motorists who are still reeling from the RFID via dolorosa. And what is this I hear about new requirements for car registration renewals?

Another pahirap: Using Quezon City e-services online for getting a QC ID (for vaccination, etc.) one must fill up a form, upload photo and scanned ID and write a digital signature. My application was rejected because my digital signature did not match the one on my driver’s license. ALL CAPS (am shouting): How can you write with the tip of your finger or with a mouse a good digital signature on a small rectangle on a gadget or PC screen?

Drum roll. After the complicated process of ordering the vaccines from Big Pharmas, fund sourcing and political maneuverings with vaccine-producing countries, are we prepared to hit the ground running when the tens of millions of vaccine vials arrive? Have the national and local governments and agencies, as well as private entities done dry runs, drills and, as in theater performances, dress rehearsals? Or will it be hit and miss? I dread the chaos and cacophony that might ensue on the first day or weeks.

The Girl Scout motto I live by: Be prepared.