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The irony of the NPC

"The agency violated its own guidelines."

 

This made me laugh:

A man asked the elevator girl: “Don’t you ever get bored, going up and down?”

The girl replied: “It’s all right. It’s the jerks I cannot stand.”

* * *

My daughter Nina, who has a Facebook account, told me that my interview with Manila Standard’s opinion editor, Adelle Chua, which was on Facebook Live last Monday, got almost 200 likes with complimentary comments. Adelle asked me about the contents of my forthcoming book, “The Road Never Ends,” on my almost seven decades as a journalist.

My memoirs will be launched on Jan. 30 at Manila Golf and Country Club.

* * *

Without doubt, many of you have seen public service announcements, usually played in cinemas, featuring National Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro giving advice on protecting your personal data.

In this day and age, especially given the technical tools and ever-improving modi operandi of digital criminals, one can never be too careful about protecting private information. In truth, I have heard countless horror stories on how friends have been victimized by data-mining scams. Senior citizens are natural targets for this wrongdoing.

This is precisely why the NPC was created. The agency is tasked to oversee the proper handling of personal and organizational data in terms of content, notice and regulatory obligations.

In practical terms, privacy concerns usually revolve around whether or not a situation calls for data sharing, how this data is shared (if necessary), how data is legally collected, shared and used.

It was perfectly within the NPC’s mandate, therefore, to investigate a number of online mobile lending applications, whose collecting efforts allegedly involve accessing and using the phonebook contacts of their clients without their consent. Using this phonebook data, these online lenders would reportedly inform delinquent clients’ friends and family that they were named as co-makers or character references by borrowers. Santa Banana, in some reports, these contacts were even asked to settle the loan!

Commissioner Liboro himself put it best when he said that “this (unauthorized use of phonebook data) targets the privacy of persons, practically making a profit out of people’s fear of losing face and dignity, These unethical practices simply have no place and must stop.” Liboro further noted that “the public shaming that they carried out has caused anxiety and depression, and has put the reputation and future of these online borrowers in jeopardy.”

Notwithstanding the careless presumption of guilt in Liboro’s statement, it was still well up to this point. But, Santa Banana, guess what the NPC—whose directive also includes the protection of citizens against malicious and unauthorized disclosure—did? It called a press conference and proceeded to distribute to the media the names and personal details of the directors of every online lending company that was the subject of a complaint. My gulay, did not the NPC violate its own guidelines?

Let’s be clear here. The NPC aims to investigate the firms based on complaints, At this point, no final judgment has been rendered, and no official decision has been made by the proper court of law. More importantly, by its own admission, the NPC decided on which firms to investigate based on 689 official complaints and around 2,666 similar concerns the NPC received via email and social media, which were not filed as formal complaints.

Is this a valid reason to release people’s names and personal details to the media? The answer becomes evident when you consider the exact industry and service these online lenders provide.

Online or app-based lending is the modern equivalent of non-collateralized lending. As any aspiring entrepreneur knows, it is almost impossible to get a bank loan without any form of asset-based collateral.

Moving further down the socio-economic ladder, minimum wage earners, contractual employees and everyone else below the poverty line do not have any access to institutional lending firms. Even pawnshops require some form of asset, which leaves countless people to borrow at usurious rates in times of emergency.

* * *

I can only be amused at the copout of those in the organizing committee for the Southeast Asian Games.

During a press conference, these characters, without any sense of shame, said they only had eight months to prepare because of budget delays. Worse, they blamed the media for reporting the negative things that happened. But what media negativity are they talking about when it was clearly the organizers’ fault that foreign athletes were unable to get to their hotels, not given their rooms right away, were fed kikiam, and were booked far from their training ground?

To add to all these, the venues were still being constructed, and there were no scoreboards. Photos don’t lie, Santa Banana!

I said in an earlier column that all this snafu should be investigated. As a Filipino, I bow my head in shame. And to think this is our fourth time to host the Games, my gulay!

No less than the President is displeased. He wants an investigation, not only into the logistical blunders, but potential corruption! It’s a national embarrassment. The irony of it all is that the Philippines, as usual, went overboard in spending for that cauldron.

I say that those responsible should be probed and punished. Why, they should be dumped into the Pasig River.

* * *

With the overwhelming victory of the pro-democracy people of Hong Kong as members of the city council, the big question is: How is Hong Kong, now?

Will the violence finally end? And what will Beijing do?

I think eventually the protests will end and China will no longer have to intervene. This is also the sentiment of my friend in Hong Kong, where some 230,000 OFWs work.

My guess is that Chinese President Xi Jinping will continue with his one country, two systems policy.

Can Hong Kong ever return to the way it was? I think it will recover and will continue to be a financial hub. Xi wants it that way.

* * *

Filipinos distrust the intentions of the Chinese. There are fears over China’s potential control of the our national grid operation. Can the Chinese shut down our power infrastructure?

The assurance given to the people by the leaders of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, and their remark that Chinese firms are only technical advisers, does not do much to assuage our fear.

All I can say is, beware of Chinese bearing gifts.

Topics: The Road Never Ends , Book , Southeast Asian Games , Xi Jinping , Raymund Liboro
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