Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tag Response: Eight Random Facts About Me

I've been tagged by Sparks. Here are the rules for “8 facts”:
  • In the 8 facts about [name], you share 8 things that your readers don’t know about you. At the end, you tag 8 other bloggers to keep the fun going. Each blogger must post these rules first.
  • Each blogger starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  • At the end of the post, a blogger needs to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
  • Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.
Here is mine (in chronological order):

Fact #1: I've had trouble sleeping early (and waking up early) since i was a kid. (Early in my career, i almost got fired because of this.)
Fact #2: I do not follow sporting events.
Fact #3: I hate shopping (except for books or music cd's). It drains me of my life force.
Fact #4: I took up Accounting in College, but i've worked in Information Technology all throughout my working life. I did so in part because i wanted to be were the action is and not just be a scorekeeper. Only later did i realize that scorekeeping is the game and in the business world at least, IT professionals exist mainly to serve Accountants.
Fact #5: I once accidentally deleted the payroll file of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Fact #6: I read only non-fiction books. I estimate that it will take me at least twenty years to go through my collection (more than 800 so far).
Fact #7: I don't mind eating with other people, but on normal days, i prefer eating alone.
Fact #8: I sleep with the lights and tv on, even if the tv is outside my room.

I'm tagging the following eight bloggers:

Torn and Frayed
Village Idiot Savant
Manila Bay Watch
Peryodistang Pinay

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs (personal nominees)

Via Manolo Quezon, Janette Toral's Top 10 Emerging Influential Blogs in 2007. My three (3) nominees are:
  1. Tingog
  2. Smoke
  3. Jaxius
As far as i know, all the above have started blogging after August 2006 and have in one way or the other influenced my thinking through their blog entries and comments.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Four Years Ago Today

Four years ago today, i wanted these guys to be bombed to oblivion. I thought to myself then, how dare they disrupt our peaceful, democratic way of life and bring us back to the bad old days of attempted coups. I never expected that i would be voting for one of them in the last election. I still would not condone the way they risked the lives of the Oakwood residents but i do appreciate the logic behind their widthrawal of support. As they have warned us, all is not well and subsequent events have revealed the true nature of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Administration and the Military Generals who prop her up. We are a nation that is fast running out of selfless and wise elders, not that they were in abundant supply in the first place. Our hope as a people rests on enabling young leaders like Captain Faeldon and Senator Trillanes to put their ideals into action, as they have done so since July 27, 2003.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Philippine Elections: What (and What Not) to Automate

Halalang Marangal (HALAL) has released its Audit Report Number 4 on the May 2007 mid-term elections. It details the areas in which the COMELEC and NAMFREL fell short during the past exercise (refer to the PCIJ's blog entry for a summary) and derives lessons on how future elections can be improved. Of particular interest are its recommendations on what part of the process to automate, and more importantly, what not to automate. The current manual system can be divided into three stages:
  1. Voting
  2. Precinct-level counting
  3. Canvass (which takes place at the Municipal, Provincial & National levels)
HALAL recommends that the precinct tally not be automated. The Audit Report states:
"The manual counting of votes at the precinct level is superior to automated counting in terms of openness, transparency, and providing an invaluable lesson in civics to all participants and witnesses. Because it is non-automated and open, it is slow enough that any citizen can actually audit in real-time the counting process. But because of its massively parallel approach of simultaneous tallies in all the two hundred thousand plus precincts in the country, is also fast enough that results are usually in within 6-12 hours."[emphasis mine]
HALAL makes a good point about the social value of the precinct level tally which will be lost if we implemented a system like the one from Mega-Pacific that was junked by the Supreme Court. Instead, it recommends automation to start at the Municipal level canvassing:
"HALAL recommends that ERs be encoded into computers as soon as they are brought to a municipal canvassing center. HALAL recommends, once the ERs are encoded, that original printouts be made available at cost to any interested party, during the municipal canvassing and afterwards, as certified true copies of these ERs...once ERs are encoded, that all subsequent consolidations, additions of row and column totals, computations of indicators like voter turnouts and ballot fill-up rates, and the printing of certified true copies of SOVs/COCs be done with computers."
We can better follow the logic of this recommendation if we look at a timeline of the recently concluded canvassing process:

Timeline of COMELEC Canvass by Region
(click on image to enlarge)

The above timeline shows that canvassing takes much longer than the average precinct tally (which was completed within 6 to 12 hours according to HALAL as quoted above), taking almost sixty days for the entire process to complete. It also reveals a weak relationship between the number of votes and the time taken to canvass those votes. For Region 4A, 36 million aggregate votes for Senators were canvassed in three days. By contrast, the much fewer 8.5 million votes of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) took forty six days for the same process. This means that for the recently concluded election, in terms of percentage of votes canvassed, we found ourselves in a situation where it took as long for the COMELEC to certify the remaining three percent of the Senatorial votes as it did the preceding ninety-seven percent. (Refer to diagram below showing the percentage of Senatorial votes canvassed over time.)

Percentage of Senatorial Votes Canvassed Over Time
(click on image to enlarge)

Entering the results at the initial stage of the canvassing process i.e. the municipal level, would help shorten the duration by taking advantage of the near simultaneous data entry that takes place among the country's hundreds of municipalities. More importantly, it would also make it harder to massage the data further down the line especially if as HALAL advises, it is immediately made available online:
"All ERs, SOVs and COCs should be put online or at least be made available to any interested party, together with their file checksums, at no additional cost, making the entire tabulation process completely transparent."
The attributes of transparency and auditability are emphasized because the last thing we need is an automated system that operates like a black-box. With these in mind, i believe that such an automated system must be built as Open Source software.

Automation that does not lend itself to inspection will just bring forth a younger breed of technology savvy Bedol-types. We can get a flavor of such a 'black box' type system in the results of the local absentee votes. As can be seen in the first diagram above, the canvassing of the local absentee ballots was completed relatively quickly and early (by May 20). Within these local absentee votes, Zubiri emerged as the topnotcher. Was the result fair? Who knows?

Update Aug-24-2007: Via Manolo, it's a hopeful sign that the media is giving some attention to Verzola's advocacy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rice and Chips: Replicating the Silicon Valley Model

In his book, Rice and Chips: Technopreneurship and Innovation in Asia, Dennis Posadas, IT industry veteran and BusinessWorld I.T. Matters columnist, identifies what he sees as the distinguishing elements (e.g. geographic clustering, universities and research institutes as catalysts, the availability of venture capital etc.) that made Silicon Valley the exemplar for high technology entrepreneurship and innovation. He then provides a survey on how these elements are being replicated across Asia (including the Philippines) as well as some pointers on how the model is (or can be) adapted to suit the local context. In this area, he touches upon the importance of an institutional framework, the role of returnee Asians from the West as well as the need to promote a culture that tolerates failure.

Much of the value of the book comes from his interviews with Asian entrepreneurs such as Deepak Amin of Covelix and Peter Valdes, Fil-Am co-founder of Tivoli Systems, a systems management software company that was eventually acquired by IBM.

Of particular interest to me is his discussion of the role of industrial policy in developing the Information and High Technology industries which he labels Techno-nationalism and defines as:
"a desire to free their economies from an over reliance on Western technologies, and to be recognized internationally for the ability to develop their own cutting-edge technologies. Most Asian economies drive innovation through national programs rather than market-driven research and development"
This observation squares with what i have previously written about concerning industrial development. The role of the State has been a contentious issue (for example in the comments section here). Nevertheless, i believe that the author remains relatively agnostic about this matter and acknowledges the useful role that multinationals play in driving innovation.

More about matters concerning the book here.

Cebu Prison Inmates Perform Michael Jackson's Thriller

Saw this featured at With almost 400K hits in 6 days, looks like it's on its way to the Youtube record books.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rodrik on Kinds of Growth Spurts

Dani Rodrik compares Asian vs. African growth accelerations with respect to over- and under-valuation of the exchange rate. He explains:

"In Asia, growth is typically engineered by increasing the profitability in manufacturing and other tradables. But in Africa the typical growth spurt is preceded by aid inflows and other transfers, which appreciate the exchange rate, and render future growth less sustainable."
Read the whole thing here.

Substitute "remittances" for "aid" and it would appear that we are once again in the wrong continent.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mama Mary vs. Musa

Manolo Quezon was right. There has been "a last minute miracle of the sinister sort". Of course, Migz Zubiri was also right when he said that "Quezon was not aware of all the strategies, both new and time-tested, employed by my team." Now we know. After today, no one can deny that a mere mortal like Musa Dimasidsing was indeed no match to Mama Mary. This is obvious once we compare their respective track records in driving voter turnout in Maguindanao.
Voter Turnout*

(click on image to enlarge)

The diagram above shows that in the municipalities under her control, Mama Mary achieved a voter participation rate in the high 90's, well beyond the 68% national average. Next to this, Musa's anemic 23% voter turnout rate in Pagalungan is hard not to notice.

Encouraging voter participation is one thing, but that's only the start. What really matters is the ability to compel these voters to write 'Zubiri' on the ballot. As shown in the diagram below, while Musa can only manage a 42% success rate, Mama Mary was able to convince no less than 96% of the voters in the Maguindanao Precincts under her responsibility to do so, again much better than the 72% achieved in Zubiri's home province of Bukidnon.

Percentage of Votes Cast for Zubiri**

(click on image to enlarge)

Just to leave no room for doubt that Zubiri's victory is not of this world, Mama Mary left miraculous signs reminiscent of her Son's miracle of the loaves and fishes as manifested through the ballot fill-up rate.
Ballot Fill-Up Rate***

(Click on image to enlarge)

As the diagram above shows, not only were the electorate of one of our poorest province able to achieve ballot fill-up rates beyond that of the members of the A, B & C Classes, with the help of Mama Mary, they even managed to break through the math barrier and fill up more names than the form would allow. The fact that there was a maximum of twelve blanks to be filled up was not an issue when it came to the municipalities of Ampatuan, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Paglat, South Upi and Sultan sa Barongis. By contrast, Musa can barely manage to fill in an average of three names per form in Pagalungan.

All this means that Zubiri is correct when he says that he owes his victory to Mama Mary. In the Maguindanao municipalities where Mama Mary was present, Migz was ranked Number 1. It was only in Pagalungan where Migz ended up in a respectable but nevertheless unspectacular 7th place. While as the PCIJ states, it is true that "the Pagalungan voting results also more closely reflect the outcome of elections in the five other provinces of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao", this can also be taken as proof that Pagalungan's results reflect its total lack of supernatural origins.

The above facts speak for themselves and as Wittgenstein would say, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent".

*Source: Why You Should Doubt The Maguindanao Election Results, Avigail Olarte, July 3, 2007. Voter turnout percentages in the diagram is computed by dividing NO. OF REGISTERED VOTERS WHO ACTUALLY VOTED by NO. OF REGISTERED VOTERS (Comelec May 3 Memo). National Voter Turnout computed from National Tally Sheet SENATORIAL CANVASS REPORT No. 30.
**Source: Why You Should Doubt The Maguindanao Election Results - 5, Avigail Olarte, July 12, 2007.
***Source: Why You Should Doubt The Maguindanao Election Results - 4, Isa Lorenzo, July 12, 2007. The Ballot fill-up rates as shown in the diagram for Nationwide-ABC, Nationwide-D and Nationwide-E Classes is from The educational and class vote for Senator, Social Weather Stations (SWS), May 12, 2007. Lady of Manaoag image from

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ricky Gervais and The Long Tail

This is probably old news to some of you, but I only came to know about two surprising pieces of information just now:
  1. Ricky Gervais of The Office fame was the singer of my favorite new wave song; and
  2. More To Lose (as performed by his band Seona Dancing) did not do well in the UK Charts or anywhere else. It became a hit only in the Philippines two years after it was released. (It looks like the rest of the world suffered from a failure of taste.)
I think that the way this song did poorly in the beginning and eventually became a hit once it reached our shores would qualify as an early example of The Long Tail.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pirate Governance and Self-Dealing

I learned a new word today - "self dealing" which is an apt term to characterize Manny Villar's recent actions. In his New Yorker article, James Surowiecki introduces this word and describes how Pirates (as in 'Pirates of the Carribean') adopted a system of governance to discourage such behavior. Towards the end of the article, he reaches the following conclusion:
"pirate governance, peculiar as it may sound, offers an intriguing example of how limits on executive power can actually make an enterprise more successful and, because workers are convinced they’re being treated fairly, can deepen their commitment."
Read the rest here.

(Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.)

Update (12:06pm): Just occurred to me, we have seen how mutiny can come about as a result of the leadership's self-dealing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Privacy without Anonymity*

Yesterday, Manolo remarked that the two Senate bills to require registration of SIM cards might "irk the public". It probably will, but such a step is necessary in these times. Registration of SIM cards is essential for law enforcement especially now that cell phones are used as triggering devices for car bombs.

Maybe the public will be less irked if they are assured that sacrificing anonymity does not necessarily mean giving up privacy. The lawmakers who would take away the phone user’s anonymity are also responsible for putting more safeguards to that same phone user’s privacy.

In addition to requiring SIM card registration, the Telco's (e.g. Globe, SMART and Sun) should also be required to log the coordinates of every called number (gps coordinates if possible) as part of the call data record as an aid to subsequent investigation(s). However, such records should be kept confidential under normal circumstances.

As i told fellow commenter Baycas last year, society has to find a way to accept the loss of anonymity while strengthening safeguards to privacy.

One example of eliminating anonymity is the requirement to clearly identify a person as well as centralize personal information for easy access (via Identity Cards and a corresponding online database) which is in itself is a very useful for security and administrative purposes. However, this will only be acceptable if such information is treated with the same level of sanctity as a Swiss Bank Account accessible only by the person himself or through a valid court order. Making a person carry around his/her Identity Card and demanding it to be shown at will, opens the system to abuse resulting in further discontent and/or loss of freedom.

While we're on the subject, over at Crookedtimber, there is an informative entry on a form of information theft called phishing. It narrates specific cases of possible phishing incidents in the photo sharing website flickr.

Update (July 11, 2007 12:16pm): In the comments section, blogger Manila Baywatch gives a detailed explanation of how such a system of privacy without anonymity works in France through the various stages of a French citizen's existence.

*First three paragraphs was also submitted as a comment in mlq3's blog.

Monday, July 09, 2007


A lot has already been said about the reported alliance between the supposedly Genuine Opposition(GO) Senators Villar, Cayetano, Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada with their pro-Administration counterparts in the battle for the Senate Presidency. The Black and White Movement has issued its Urgent Appeal. Other bloggers (here and here) have done so as well. Manolo Quezon while gallantly trying to put things into context, likewise criticized the actions of the Senators as the wrong kind of addition. Ellen Tordesillas who has supported the GO candidates through thick and thin likewise expressed her disappointment especially with Alan Peter Cayetano. In a series of comments, i believe blogger (and Ellenville regular) Yuko Takei, best reflects the sentiment of the majority who voted for the opposition:
"...Villar, et al should not forget that the reason why the Filipinos voted for them was to oppose the creeps from succeeding in abolishing the Senate with the creeps bent on establishing a unicameral legislative under a monarchy with the criminal promising her supporters most probably this and that title if they help her fulfill her ambition to be queen...

...Let’s face it. Malacanang had Plan B, and it has succeeded with its plan to break up the Opposition because Binay had not been wiser NOT to include the likes of Villar, with or wiithout the consent of Erap. I had a feeling something like this would happen and why I was reluctant to accept Villar, Pangilinan and even Legarda as a matter of fact, but pakikisama, I promoted GO in Japan with emphasis on Trillanes.

Doon lang nga nakatimbog si Binay kay Trillanes, who has proven to be the only genuine opposition. Thanks to the 11M enlightened Filipinos who voted for him and proved what they could in fact do and achieve. They will surely remember that. By 2010, their number will not just double but triple, etc...

...I felt betrayed especially regarding Cayetano, but it’s OK. Maaga mas mabuti! You should not feel confused and defeated, too. We can fight as a matter of fact to avenge ourselves!!!
By failing to demonstrate purity of intent, the crisis of representation continues. The actions of our newly elected Opposition Senators' is one more blow to representative democracy in the Philippines, another failure of the principal-agent relationship between the voters and the elected. Starting at least with Erap's election in 1998, the faith of the people in our restored democracy has taken a beating and the recent shortsighted actions of these young and once promising new breed of Senators is one more step in this continuing loss of credibility.

Update 6:40PM: Over at Ellen's, commenter Sampot voices out a sentiment that i believe will be increasingly popular in the wake of this fiasco:
"The last election is my last.

In fact i was hesitant then to participate because politics in this country seems like a roller coaster ride.

Yesterday, it’s the Filipino Voter who doesn’t seem to know how to choose a candidate. Today, it’s the winning candidate who doesn’t seem to know how to choose between the interests of the people against his own.

These people are not only offered Committee Chairmanships but Cabinet Positions.

I can hardly remember who once said this, “My loyalty to the party ends, where my loyalty to the people begins.”

Why can’t we accept the fact that the solution is beyond routine flock to the precincts? We need to dismantle the whole system and establish a Caretaker Government.

The only reason why i did participate in the last elections was Trillanes.
It's interesting that the credibility of our democracy is now in the hands of an alleged coup plotter. Personally, i don't believe a 'caretaker' government is a step in the right direction since Filipino leaders get too easily drunk with power, but such desperation is understandable.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

*Ask Lucy* -Part2- ①

Update July 10, 2007: Embedding has been disallowed so you can watch the video here.

Part One is here.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world myths (TED 2006) and Insights on Poverty (TED 2007)

I just came across an impressive twenty minute presentation at TED 2006 by Hans Rosling, co-founder of the GapMinder Foundation.

He deftly uses his Trendalyzer software (recently acquired by Google) to present basic truths about the state of health, inequality, gdp per capita between and within countries over the past decades. Viewed from that time span, conditions do seem to be getting better.

For the more recent TED 2007, Rosling returns with an equally enlightening nineteen minute presentation, using longer timescales and ends with an impressive demo. (The Philippines gets special mention at 5:01.)

If you want to get the big picture when it comes to economic and human development, the videos are worth watching.