Archive | October, 2012

Physics for the Soul

As the United States shuts down its eastern seaboard for Cyclone Sandy, the Philippines will be shutting down as well, for completely different reasons. November 1 marks All Saints’ Day, when many establishments close up, since most people head to cemeteries to gamble and eat among the remains of the dead.

What comes with the holiday is the belief that when our bodies cease to function, even after we are laid into the soil or burned to ash, something survives. We are not just bodies, supernaturalist believers claim. There is a ghost in this machine and it breaks free from its mortal shackles upon death.

Some people claim to see these surviving entities, these spirits or souls, dwelling among the living. Ghostly apparitions are reported with disturbing regularity. Disturbing, in that even in the age of ubiquitous photography, no one has ever gathered any credible support for these ectoplasmic assertions. The reality of disembodied souls would necessarily overturn everything we know about physics. Any scientist would be itching to find evidence for the supernatural—evidence that never seems to turn up, despite the most adamant and most confident protestations of believers.

Human visual perception works because of light, and light works through electromagnetism. Electromagnetic/light particles called photons travel at the speed limit of the universe. When they hit objects, the energy of the photons is absorbed by particles in the object (such as electrons). These particles then release some energy back as another photon. The energy of the photon released determines the color and intensity of the light humans perceive.

If ghosts (under which I include saintly apparitions) can be seen, that means ghosts interact with photons! Electromagnetism is a physical phenomenon. This implies that at least some aspects of ghosts are physical, and therefore investigable by the methods of science. What kinds of photons are these spirits carrying? Are they different from everyday photons?

When people claim to hear ghosts, either through spooky screams or through elaborate homilies about the current geopolitical situation, they are actually claiming that physical objects are being moved by supernatural events. The perception of hearing occurs when the pressure of the air around us is locally fluctuated. When people talk, their vocal folds vibrate and push around air molecules. The air then vibrates the eardrums of animals within earshot. These vibrations correspond to what we hear as sound. The case is similar for those who report interacting with apparitions through touch (except that objects apart from air molecules are being moved, such as a uterus).

The Earth rotates on its own axis at around 1,674.4 km/h. It revolves around the Sun at 108,000 km/h. We don’t even feel these exorbitant speeds because we are moving with the Earth. We move with the Earth because we are on it and its forces are acting on us without variation. Should the Earth suddenly change in speed, however, we would definitely feel a calamitous disturbance. The Earth is tumbling around our galaxy, which is itself moving with respect to the rest of the universe. Should the Earth’s motion stop, we’d fly off into space—like a tetherball released from its rope. For the most part, we can happily ignore that we are hurtling across space because we are physical objects that obey the laws of physics. It is curious, therefore, when even immaterial ghosts follow physical laws.

When people claim to see ghosts, nobody ever reports them appearing one moment then zipping out into space the next, left behind by the Earth’s motion. Rather, people claim to see them stay in place long enough to scare the bejesus out of them, or tell them about some magic water that would heal people. Again, ghosts are eerily physical in all convenient aspects.

Imagine now that you have died. Ignore the paradox that you could not do such imagining because that would be imagining that your imagination could not imagine any longer. For the sake of argument, let us say that souls do exist and you are one right now, formerly in control of a body, currently disembodied.

Where are you? What do you see? Let us suppose that even though you are supernatural, you have some sort of particles that interact electromagnetically. Can you blink? It would be odd to do so, seeing as your soul would need to have eyelids.

At what direction are you looking? When you had a body, your eyeballs would sense a local cone of vision. Now that you’re a ghost, do you see all of existence at once? If so, where in the world are you? Certainly not floating just above your corpse.

When you had a body, you used your vision (and other senses) to determine where you were. You were limited by the local area that could be perceived by your physical sense organs. Now that you are without a body, the question of ‘where’ becomes meaningless. If ghosts exist, then they must be everywhere. They cannot otherwise be.

If these ghosts cannot exist as they have been claimed to be, then it must be that they are wholly in the mind of those who see them. They don’t have photons bouncing off of them, they don’t fly through space, because they’re not in the outside world! They do not exist objectively. These disembodied souls are figments, like how optical illusions, while very convincing, do not really show moving objects.

Our brains are easily fooled into seeing things that do not exist. People who claim to see ghosts often truly believe that they have experienced such a thing. I do not believe that they are all liars (though some must be). However, even though their brush with the supernatural must have felt very real, that does not mean that it was anything more than a psychological episode. The human brain is so adept at pattern recognition that it sees patterns everywhere—from clouds to dog anuses. It is no surprise, then, that ghosts follow the patterns we are so familiar with and that they are so much like normal natural objects, except for that little difficulty of being able to show them to others.

The supernatural world is suspicious to the scientifically literate because it is too convenient. It looks exactly like the natural world except when it’s favorable not to be. It looks like bad science fiction. Ghosts can hover, but not be left behind by a moving Earth. Ghosts can pass through solid walls, but can affect air molecules to produce sound. Ghosts can be perceived but not leave behind any independently-verifiable traces.

Surely some scientist must have left from the spirit world by now to show all his skeptical journal-publishing colleagues that the supernatural does exist. And yet, no scientist has ever come back from the grave to do so. Instead, we have saints who supposedly cure comatose patients, almost 400 years removed.

The vastness of space and time is available to the dead, if we are to believe the claims of the religious. Despite that, what is regularly professed to be done from beyond the grave is so vapid that miraculous claims are barely worth a 30 second spot on the evening news. The deep incongruence between the scale of the universe and the parochial concerns of people betrays the very human imaginations that spawn these stories.

Posted in Philosophy, Religion, Science9 Comments

October 28, 2012 (Sunday) Holy Trinity Church Meetup

Location: Holy Trinity Church (Google map)
Date: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

Discussion topics
– Ethics for the End of the World
– Bangsamoro
– Pedro Calungsod
– AKBAYAN Party List

After the meetup we usually go for dinner and drinks somewhere nearby. If you’re not a meetup regular and can’t make it for the meetup but would like to go for the post meetup, please indicate on a post in the wall or comment so we can contact you.

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.

Photo by Vanessa Payne

Posted in Meetup1 Comment

Bullets and Dogma: A Musing on Religiously Inspired Misogyny

A few weeks ago, Taliban gunmen stopped a bus carrying students home from school in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, singled out Malala Yousufzai, and shot her.

Her crime was advocating for women’s education – which the Taliban banned – and for openly speaking out against their atrocities through her blog.

The good news is that as you read this, Malala is on the road to recovery, while the Taliban are being rightfully condemned for their act of brutality and cowardice; it says a lot about how insane a group is, when they think a girl who just wants to go to school is a justification for them to shoot people in the face.

But as I look at the outrage, the sympathy, and at the end of it all, the hope getting mixed into Malala’s story, and I look at the reactions from the Philippines’ own community at the whole thing – which is thankfully supportive – I just have to ask…

Are we really any different?

Because in their own way, the women of the Philippines are under threat from bearded, out-of-touch, religious conservatives who abide by silly religious laws, and run around in sillier robes. These people are intent on stifling not only women’s access to quality education, but also their ability to simply speak up and criticize them.

And the magic is that unlike the Taliban, they don’t have to whip out a gun to get the job done. So how did they do it? Let’s look at some of their more recent examples:

1. Resorting to erudite rhetoric that celebrates the fact that their morally superior university doesn’t put up with liberal nonsense such as dissent, free thought, critical thinking, or scientific facts. God was apparently so touched by this show of devotion that he forgot to bless their last game.

2. Legislators bravely stating the truths of the RH Bill while in senate, buying time for their side, not to mention creating a new, proudly Pinoy meme along the way.

3.
Fearlessly speaking against the Magna Carta of Women, which removes their god-given right to eject pregnant students from getting a proper education. Who has a time for school (much less a decent job), when you have to raise a kid before you’ve turned 18, right?

4. Righteously defending their right to condemn the evils of lesbians, a fine trend that they and like-minded predecessors have done for decades.

5. Selflessly sacrificing whatever esteem and respect they had left to support the cybercrime law under the guise of defending people against bullying. After all, calling out an anti-gay/anti-woman bigot for being an intolerant asshole can be painful to their self-esteem.

6. Heroically citing that none other than our national hero, Jose Rizal, would never condone providing women with better access to family planning education.

Who needs bullets when you have a few well-chosen words and the support of powerful, religiously devout, but ultimately imbecilic leaders in politics and educational institutions to shape society according to your whims?

I’m not writing this to reduce any of the much-deserved attention that Malala is getting for herself and a woman’s right to education in Pakistan. What I am simply saying is that as we read about what happens to her, we shouldn’t dismiss it as just a story being told in a foreign land thousands of miles away.

It’s similar to the story of our women here, except that the attempt to murder them comes in inches. The perpetrators do this through through the denial of a woman’s right to proper academic and reproductive education, and through the poisoning of society’s opinion about providing better awareness regarding their rights.

And that is just as deadly – if not deadlier – than a few grams of copper-jacketed lead.

“In A Myriad Small Ways You Have Hastened The Deaths Of Many. You Do Not Know Them. You Did Not See Them Bleed. But You Snatched Bread From Their Mouths And Tore Clothes From Their Backs.” – Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights, Personal, Religion, RH Bill, Society2 Comments

The Billionaire Bishops Go Begging

Hi guys. Could I talk to you all for a minute?

So there’s this guy named Pedro. I don’t know him personally. I mean, I know him, I definitely know him, but I never met him in real life because he’s technically from Guam, plus he lived in the 1600s, so there’s that. But I know the guy, and everyone says he’s awesome, and I think he’s awesome, too.

He’s actually so awesome that he brought this woman from Leyte back to life, and he—Pedro—was already dead! No, I’m serious! What I mean to say is that this whole miracle thing happened in 2002—way, way, WAY after Pedro’s time. Seriously, 2002! And he was from the 1600s! So how did he do it? Well, this woman, she died, right? I mean, she was clinically dead, two hours after a heart attack. And then her doctor prayed to Pedro and then BAM! She’s ALIVE again! I mean, honestly, how else could she have gotten that chance, right? OF COURSE you get to live again when your doctor prays to someone who died centuries ago! Duh! What else could it have been? Go Pedro!

So the Vatican, they’re going to name Pedro a saint because they said he performed a miracle from the grave, miles and miles and centuries away, okay? Okay, so the thing is, this Pedro, who lived most of his life in Guam, was born in the Philippines, so OBVIOUSLY that means he’s a real Filipino and we should all be super proud of him and use him as an example of why we’re the BEST COUNTRY EVER. Sounds good, right? But here’s the thing: we kind of need 60 million pesos from you guys.

Seriously, we need 60 million. We’re going to be celebrating Pedro, and we’re going to need a little extra cash for the tarps, and maybe an AVP. Balloons, if we can find a decent supplier. I mean, this is going to be HUGE, guys. Like, it’s going to be the EVENT OF THE YEAR. TIME is going to STOP on Canonization Day. I mean, people from all over the country are just going to drop what they’re doing—their jobs, their families, their hopes, their dreams—and come over to Manila and par-tay, you know? I mean, I don’t even need to tell you to mark your calendars, because God has already marked them for you. And an event like that calls for a little glitz, don’t you think?

So, yeah. Could you spare some change, friends? I mean, we’re not asking for much. I know most of you can barely afford to feed yourselves, let alone your 10 children, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, you know? And ultimately, it’s all for God. For God, guys. Wouldn’t you want to do something nice for God, for once? I mean, He’ll like you a whole lot more if you help us out. Like, bless your life and save you from hell and stuff.

And about the 18 billion pesos we already have, well, we can’t really spend it for this. Well, we can, but do you seriously think we should, given this godawful recession? Come on, guys. It is tempting to dip into the funds just a little, but you know what they say about temptation. We’re just trying to be frugal here. Live a simple life. Earn a billion here, maybe a hundred million there, then stow it all away for a rainy day. It’s the thing to do. You know how it is. You all understand.

So, do we have a deal? Yes? Okay? We’d definitely prefer cash over checks, by the way. (The Pope’s not too hot on paper trails these days.) Just leave the envelopes with the guard at the CBCP gate

We really look forward to all your help, guys. This means more than you’ll ever know. You have no idea how happy this will make us. And seriously, rest assured that there will be a very, very good return on investment. You’ll definitely get what you deserve. This is a solid deal, guys. Real solid. Serious stuff. Totes legit. It’s going to be the smartest thing you’ve ever done. Seriously. I swear it. I swear to God.

Image from http://www.travel-images.com/pht/phil37.jpg

Posted in Entertainment, Humor, Religion, Society4 Comments

The Strange Case of Rizal and Catholic Dogma

Hey! Did you know that the CBCP has their own website? It’s true! They post really interesting articles on it too, and I find out so many great and wonderful things! Like how it’s okay for a doctor to make blanket statements that contraception is dangerous (no ifs or buts) to bolster the CBCP argument against the RH bill. Or how academic freedom in Catholic universities is great and all, but that academic freedom stops when it comes to dissenting against the truth as espoused by the Catholic church.

But when I recently visited their website, what really struck me was a little animated banner they were running on one side. An animated banner that had a quote from Jose Rizal and his image as well, fighting for the dogma of the Catholic church against the Reproductive Health Bill.

It’s an interesting little banner, because in the 1950’s the CBCP was fighting one of these pesky laws that we have in our nation, Republic Act 1425, or the Rizal Law: a bill that was enacted to teach the life and writings of Jose Rizal to all public and private school students in the Philippines.

The CBCP resented having to teach the life and work of someone who they percieved to be anti Catholic in their private Catholic schools. They seemed to have fought the Rizal law as vociferously as they are fighting today against the RH bill. The CBCP brought in political proxies in the form of Senators to fight the Rizal Law, a tactic that they still deploy in fighting the RH bill.

In that fight, the CBCP issued this statement against the Rizal Law. I’d like to excerpt a passage from that statement here (emphasis mine).

In these two novels we find passages against Catholic dogma and morals where repeated attacks are made against the Catholic religion in general, against the possibility of miracles, against the doctrine of Purgatory, against the Sacrament of Baptism, against Confession, Communion, Holy Mass, against the doctrine of Indulgences, Church prayers, the Catechism of Christian Doctrine, sermons, sacramentals and books of piety. There are even passages casting doubts on or covering with confusion God’s omnipotence, the existence of hell, the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity, and the two natures of Christ.

So here we are, in 2012, with the CBCP fighting the RH bill this time. The CBCP is being insistent on protecting the dogma of the church. And who is one of their champions in this time of great need? Why, none other than Jose Rizal of course! Because of course Jose Rizal is such a great upholder of Catholic dogma! I mean, that’s what the CBCP said right?

So here we are, in 2012. The CBCP has somehow managed to change their minds about Rizal despite their bawlings about him in 1956. What else do you think they can change their minds on in the future?

Posted in RH Bill14 Comments

October 13, 2012 (Saturday) Starbucks Drive-Thru Libis Meetup

Location: Starbucks Drive-Thru, Libis, along C-5 (Google map)
Date: Saturday, October 13, 2012
Time: 2:30pm – 5:30pm

RSVP on Facebook

Discussion Topics
Anti-Piracy Bill: Reasons for Opposition
TRO on Anti-Cybercrime Act: What to do to make it stick
– Ethics of Hacking
The MILF Treaty: Bangsamoro and its effects

After the meetup we’ll be heading to The Shack in Marikina (see map for details) to celebrate FF member Glenda’s birthday as well as Freethought Day!

Got questions about the meetup? Contact us at 0927 323 3532

* Newbies are welcome.
* Look for the FF sign (or the group of smart, sexy people).
* There is no required age, religion, philosophy, or IQ level.
* Discussions are informal yet intelligent (most of the time).
* You don’t have to talk; you can just sit in and listen.
* Please abide by the code of conduct.

Posted in Meetup0 Comments

Watch Out for Another Cyberlaw

Opponents of the Cybercrime Act should be wary of another cyberlaw looming in Congress. Buhay Party-List Representatives Irwin Tieng and Mariano Michael Velarde handed in to the Fifteenth Congress last May, House Bill 6187, proposing An Act to Prohibit Online Piracy and Providing Penalties for Violation Thereof.

Tieng, whose uncle owns Solar Entertainment, said in a Congressional press release that piracy was “no more justifiable than shoplifting.” Together with Velarde, son of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde, they proposed sanctions against pirates including a minimum of one year in jail for first time offenders, with a maximum of five years after the third offense. Fines proposed by the bill range from P 50,000 to P 1,000,000.

The bill, just one page and a half long excluding the opening note, is quite worrisome with its vague wording ripe for abuse—the same problems plaguing the Cybercrime Act. The brevity of HB 6187 betrays a fundamental misunderstanding on the authors’ part of how the Internet has changed common notions of economics, property, and scarcity (the comparison with “shoplifting” encapsulates this gross lack of comprehension). The bill criminalizes two acts, namely, making copies “not authorized by the copyright owner” and offering goods or services or providing access to media in a manner “not authorized by the copyright owner.”

This kind of wording is imprecise enough to make converting your own media discs illegal. Creating MP3s from your legally-owned CDs falls under “making copies” and doing so without explicit authorization from the copyright owner could land you in jail. Thus, the media industry could sell you several different formats of the same movie or song that you already own just because you wanted a copy for your portable device. Cloud-based backups for private use would be made illegal as saving your media online would entail “uploading” and “downloading” copyrighted data. The same kinds of problems came about when the United States passed its own legislation against copyright infringement, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, with the Motion Picture Association of America (to which Tieng is reported to have links) arguing that consumers could not make copies of their own discs.

Unwittingly streaming copyrighted content to your computer could also result in imprisonment. Every time your computer uses Internet data, it creates copies, often temporary, for local access. Such a scenario would be common for visiting sites like YouTube, which hosts many videos that use unlicensed copyrighted content (e.g. background music, concerts, and TV or movie clips). Unlicensed streaming to another computer that you own would also be in violation of the bill. Such slights, which are standard for anyone with Internet access, show just how the replicability of digital data cannot be so easily wished away by thuggish legislation.

In terms of implementation, Tieng and Velarde provide no concrete methods of combating piracy and leave it to the Department of Justice to determine how it would go about this, clinching this bill’s vagueness to the point of absurdity. It is not hard to foresee that determining offenders of the proposed bill would require the DOJ’s use of Orwellian methods such as the real time data snooping legalized by the Cybercrime Act, further encroaching on the right to privacy.

Since the dawn of the VHS, piracy has been made the perennial bogeyman of the media industry in order to lobby for draconian legislation, such as SOPA and PIPA, and stifle freedom of expression (citizens who make mixes, mashups, parodies, even birthday slideshows, should be concerned)—all without concrete evidence regarding its impact.

Even the United States government has been unable to ascertain whether piracy has any detrimental effects at all on the media industry, concluding that it is “difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the net effect of counterfeiting and piracy on the economy as a whole.” (Julian Sanchez of the libertarian Cato Institute has a sober analysis of the reality of digital piracy and Internet regulation and how “reports of the death of the [media industry as a result of piracy] seem much exaggerated.”) Under the guise of protecting the interests of intellectual property rights holders, the media lobby submits these typically oppressive measures, all the while impugning the motives of opponents by branding them as thieves and “shoplifters”, instead of consumers and clients with rights.

Buhay Party-List, whose electoral accreditation Filipino Freethinkers has contested in COMELEC, claims to represent the unborn (without being unborn themselves). Tieng and Velarde were also the authors of HB 4509, a bill outlawing sex toys.

Posted in Politics7 Comments

Hitchens, Living Dyingly

Hitchens, Living Dyingly

When Christopher Hitchens died in December of last year, the atheist community echoed to the point of cliché that the world had lost a voice of reason. But, there was really no other way to put the loss of Hitchens. Hitchens was a prolific writer, with over a dozen published books, along with regular columns published on Vanity Fair, Slate, and The Atlantic. Even the toll of metastatic cancer could only do so much to diminish his output.

Hitchens died after over a year of battling esophageal cancer. Or rather, as he puts it, cancer fighting him. He wrote missives from the land he called Tumortown with the wit and vigor, however slowed by chemotherapy, that was unique to him. These dispatches were published in Vanity Fair, which comprise the bulk of Hitchens’ posthumously published book, Mortality.

Mortality begins with a foreword from Hitchens’ longtime editor at Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter. Carter gives us a glimpse of Hitchens’ writing method as he recounts one typically indulgent drinking session, after which Hitchens banged out a 1000 word column “of near perfection” in about 30 minutes. He talks about the story behind the iconic photo of Hitchens riding a bike, feet in the air—apparently breaking one of the odd laws of New York. Carter remembers Hitchens as the consummate writer, taking on assignments however frightening (such as a date with the waxing parlor), while declaring with nervous enthusiasm, “In for a penny…”

The “living dyingly” by an atheist, of which Hitchens wrote in his final days, served as a real depiction and acceptance of mortality. After all, dying is no more real to anyone but atheists who believe that this life is all that there is and all that there will be. Hitchens, however, warned of the “permanent temptation” of self-centeredness and solipsism that stems from cancer victimhood and a looming end of life. As a matter of “etiquette,” Hitchens imposed on himself not to inflict on others the torment of indulgence expected from people dealing with the dying. He pointed out in particular the well-loved Randy Pausch, of The Last Lecture and Oprah fame. He remarked, “It ought to be an offense to be excruciating and unfunny in circumstances where your audience is almost morally obliged to enthuse.” Unflinching takedowns such as this remind us of the cheeky audacity that the world lost when Hitchens died.

Despite his near-stoic bravery as he journeyed through the land of malady, Hitchens admits that he would sometimes falter and throw the banal challenge to the universe of “why me?”, of course, Hitchens’ clear rationality sternly admonishes him with the obvious “why not?” Mortality shows how Hitchens maintained his humor despite the understandable irritation of the courtesies when interacting with people from “the country of the well.” When asked, “How are you?,” he would give different playful responses, from “A bit early to say” to “I seem to have cancer today.”

Most heartbreaking is how Hitchens relayed the eventual loss of his legendary voice, “If I had been robbed of my voice earlier, I doubt that I could have ever achieved so much on the page.” He related the vocal cord, which is not at all a cord in its strict sense, to the musical chord and how there must lie a deep relationship between the etymology and how the human voice evokes emotion. Speaking was at the core of Hitchens’ identity and he saw its loss as “assuredly to die more than a little.”

Hauntingly, Hitchens recalled the time when he was waterboarded in order to write about the experience, which he describes as being slowly drowned. It’s quite revealing for a dying man to have an action the United States government denied was torture in his last recollections. Having pneumonia as one of the many perils of his disease, Hitchens would have fits of panic with the feeling of water filling his lungs, summoning back his experience with torture.

Among the most memorable passages of Mortality was one of the first Hitchens published after being diagnosed. He spoke of his plans that were interrupted by cancer. Valiantly, he expressed his desire of outlasting the “elderly villains,” Kissinger and Ratzinger. But, Hitchens’ disappointment was clearest and most moving when he disbelievingly lamented, “Will I really not live to see my children married?”

The closing chapter of Mortality allows us a quick look at Hitchens’ thought processes before they were laid out in crisp British prose. We see little notes that echo some of the previous chapters, which were the fleshed out beats from what Hitchens had jotted down.

As a prominent atheist, many believers pined, even threatened, for his conversion. This theme recurred in his final public appearances, when he assured people that should he ever convert, “I hereby state that while I am still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be ‘me.’” In the closing notes of Mortality, Hitchens elaborates in one fragmentary passage, “If ever I convert it’s because it’s better that a believer dies than an atheist does.” I would have loved to have seen that line bloom into a full polemic.

At just around 100 pages of previously-published material, Mortality leaves readers wanting. And, perhaps, that is just the hazard for people who have lived lives such as Hitchens. However, having all the material in one place provides a solemn context to Hitchens as he allowed the public to watch an atheist die and, as he saw it, cease to exist. Mortality encapsulates the resolute bravery of Hitchens in the face of death, refusing the comforting delusions of religion, as well as secular, but no less self-indulgent, sentimentality.

Hitchens’ widow, Carol Blue, closes the book with her own stories about her husband. She recalls how Hitchens scribbled notes in his books and how, even after Hitchens died, she would revisit them. And then Christopher Hitchens would always have the last word.

 

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens is published by Twelve.

Image Credit: Vanity Fair

Posted in Reviews0 Comments

Timeline of Sotto’s Dissembling and Lies on the Cybercrime Law

As the cybercrime Law comes into effect today posts like this one, no matter how factual, become targets for lawsuits that run contrary to the human right of freedom of expression.

Collated sources.

Images used under fair use for political commentary.

Posted in Freedom of Expression, RH Bill2 Comments

PNP Starts Damage Control by Denying Official Connection to FB Page

UPDATE (10/4/12) [Pepe Bawagan]:

The following image is a screenshot from the Google Web Cache of another Facebook Page named PNP National Hotlines Directory (Metro Manila+Provinces):

Previously, it could be seen that the post in the shot had been deleted, but now the entire page is gone. Thankfully, a copy of the page dated September 5 is still available from Google Web Cache. (Here’s a screenshot of the page from Google Web Cache, in case the actual one has expired.)

Given this new evidence, the “long con” theory seems to have become a lot more complicated and a lot less believable.

UPDATE (10/1/12 9:37pm): The “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB Page is up and running again, but without the controversial thread.

The reputation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is in danger now, thanks to some comments made by the admin of the Facebook page titled  “Philippine National Police (PNP).” I’m being careful about how I worded the previous sentence because the admin of the Facebook personal account belonging to “Philippine  Nat’l Police” has released the following statement denying any “official connection” to the PNP FB page (emphasis added):

Press Statement of
PCSUPT GENEROSO R CERBO JR
PNP Spokesperson
Chief, Public Information Office
October 1, 2012

The PNP categorically denies any official connection to a message which appeared in one particular facebook account found by many to be offensive, threatening and malicious.

For one, official statements of the PNP to include press releases intended for public consumption are published
in digital form through our PNP official web site www.pnp.gov.ph or Facebook under the account name pnp.pio.

Further, said official statements can be released individually to our media friend both in hard and digital copies in the name of the PNP Public Information Office.

We shall have this incident investigated ASAP. You will be updated on the developments.

The phrase “official connection” immediately struck me. Do they have an unofficial connection to the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page? If they do, that would explain why the page was taken down so quickly — it usually takes much longer for FB to act on page removal requests.

In a recent post on Rappler, PNP spokesman Chief Supt Generoso Cerbo Jr. — who wrote the press statement quoted above — told Rappler that “statements made on their Facebook page are not official. [emphasis added]” Does “their” mean they do own the page? Another source of confusion is Cerbo’s next statement:

“Di kami nagrerelease ng statement through Facebook,” he said, adding that the PNP only makes statements through their official website. (We don’t release official statements through Facebook.)

But as of this writing, Cerbo’s statement has not been posted on their official website. It has only been released on the PNP PIO personal account. Should I then suspect the PIO statement on FB to be less than official?

Another thing that bugs me is how Cerbo keeps referring to official statements. The Big Brother comments on the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page were just that: comments. No one seriously takes comments as official statements.

Imagine that something similar happened to your organization. You discover that there’s an FB page posing as someone who is affiliated with your group, and worse, they’re posting comments that make you look bad. How do you respond? You wouldn’t say, “We don’t post official statements on Facebook.” You would say something like this: “We don’t know who is operating that Facebook page, but we can assure you that we have nothing whatsoever do do with it, and that its admin is nothing but a fraud.”

That the PNP statement says something less than this adds weight to my suspicion that the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page, however unofficial, was run by someone connected with the PNP. According to several FB users who have frequented the page, it contained informative posts and was updated more frequently than the PNP PIO account. It also had almost 9,000 likes, dwarfing the PIO personal account’s 824 subscribers. Lastly, compare the headers used by each:

I don’t particularly like either, but the second one sure looks like more effort was put into it. Considering this, together with the amount of content and interaction in the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page, it’s no wonder that many still think it was authentic despite PNP saying otherwise.

This isn’t the first time the authenticity of “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page was questioned. Technogra.ph posted an article arguing that the page was fake because (1) the behavior of the admin was too abusive for an official PNP page, and (2) PNP didn’t link to the page from their official website. Both are true, and I particularly agree with their first reason. PNP also took flack for what the FB page had said back then. But that was almost three months ago, and I don’t think the PNP was unaware of what had happened.

So why haven’t they taken action on it until now? And why was the page only taken down now? I hope these questions and more are soon answered by PNP’s investigation into this. And I find it interesting that the fascistic technologies and manpower mentioned in the “unofficial” FB page will be a big help to them now. (It’s also interesting that the PNP statement did not deny any of the statements made by the fake FB page. Are they really monitoring citizens this early?)

Lastly, I’d like to commend the allegedly fake admin of the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” FB page. I read that the page had been up since Jan 10, 2011. (The first activity of the PNP PIO account was on Jan 6,2011.) It takes dedication to attract 8,880 likes in only a couple of years. If this was indeed a long con meant to troll PNP, fool thousands of Filipinos online, including the reporters at Rappler and GMA News (they wrote a post about this but have since taken it down), then all I can say is well played, sir.

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Check out Google’s cache of the allegedly fake FB page. Really seems legit.

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Politics, Society3 Comments

What You Can do to Stop the Cybercrime Law

Details for the Black Tuesday march.
Website blackout protest.
Images for blacking out your social media profile.

Posted in Freedom of Expression1 Comment

PNP FB Admin First to Abuse Cybercrime Law

UPDATE (10/1/12 9:42 PM): More updates on PNP’s damage control.
UPDATE (10/1/12 7:15PM): A press statement in this PNP PIO account denies any official connection to the “Philippine National Police (PNP)” page, which has already been taken down.
UPDATE: The FB thread below has been taken down.

The Cybercrime law hadn’t even taken effect, but that didn’t stop the Philippine National Police (PNP) from abusing it. At least that’s what the admin of their Facebook page did when they encountered an unwelcome comment.

The comment was a response to PNP’s post about criminology students doing poorly in English. Here’s a screenshot just in case they delete the comment, too:

I say “too” because right now these are the only comments I can read out of the ones included in a screenshot that is spreading all over Facebook. Here it is, just in case they get Facebook to take it down as well:

As several commenters have pointed out, the law doesn’t take effect till Wednesday, October 3. Yet the “CIDG Anti Transnational Crime is now conducting background investigation against” the commenter. This may or may not be true, but one thing is certain: some who read PNP’s comment are now thinking twice about speaking their mind. And when anyone is afraid of exercising their right to freedom of speech, something is definitely wrong.

Thank you, PNP, for proving that the Cybercrime Prevention Act (AKA Cyber Martial Law) must indeed be stopped. And fuck you.

___

Image source: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=507445769267202&set=a.102182453126871.4645.100000053506248&type=1

PNP thread: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=407303659323060&set=a.145337415519687.39609.145291485524280&type=1

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Personal, Politics, Society15 Comments

BLACK TUESDAY: PIFA and Netizens March to Supreme Court to Protest Cybercrime Law

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act No. 10175 threatens our basic rights and freedoms. This law works against ordinary netizens — bloggers, freelance writers, website owners, social network users. etc. — and disregards, among other things, our right to privacy and freedom of expression.

To safeguard these rights and freedoms, we, the members of the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance (PIFA), ask you to leave the virtual world for a while, and join BLACK TUESDAY, a SILENT and PEACEFUL PROTEST against CYBER MARTIAL LAW.

At 10 am, we assemble at the Padre Faura entrance of Robinsons Manila.

At 10:30 am, with our central banner saying STOP CYBER MARTIAL LAW and our mouths covered with black tape (to be provided by PIFA), we march to the Supreme Court. Everyone is encouraged (but not required) to bring black cartolina or placards/signs that are all black, signifying the silencing of free speech.

At 11 am, we read our Unity Statement in front of the Supreme Court to let the three branches of our government and the Filipino nation know why this law should be stopped.

Join us netizens, and STOP CYBER MARTIAL LAW!

For inquiries, please text Kenneth Keng at 0915 790 00 18, or send him a Facebook private message.

Please join the Facebook event.

Related links:
PIFA Facebook Group
PIFA web site
Text of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act No. 10175

Posted in Freedom of Expression0 Comments


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