There were two issues that cropped up recently here in the Philippines--both involving the technology sector, and top government leaders whose seeming stupidity is giving the country further embarrassment.
The first instance happened right in front of Congress and in millions of television sets, when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivered her annual SONA (state of the nation address). In one part of her speech, Arroyo announced that the local carriers cut into half the cost of SMS or text messages as per her request.
In turned out, however, that the reduced rate was merely a "temporary promo" and was arranged to coincide with the SONA so the president has something to brag to the public. The lowered rate is also not automatic since subscribers have to enroll through an access number to enjoy the discount.
After the faux pas, the president's advisors passed the blame to the head of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the country's telecom regulatory body, for not informing the president of the actual nature of the price cut. But, NTC chair Roel Canobas parried back by saying Arroyo's speechwriters did not consult him.
As a consolation, and perhaps to spare the president from further humiliation, local operators agreed to extend the SMS promo by a few more months. The NTC, meanwhile, said it would try to convince carriers to make the rate reduction a permanent one.
The second issue refers to the ongoing efforts of the government to postpone the use of computerized polls--the first for the Philippines--in the southern island of Mindanao, which is scheduled for Aug. 11.
Let me underscore my point... I can't understand for the life me why the government would want to do this. This exercise is mandated by law, and it is something that the whole country has been aspiring for the longest time. This is also intended to serve as a pilot case before its full-scale implementation for the national elections in 2010.
The government said it to wants to delay the automated polls in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to give the secessionist group MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) a chance to participate in the elections, after the signing of a peace pact this week in Malaysia. Thus, despite not having enough time to do so, it is still using all its resource to have a law passed this week the computerized polls can be pushed to 2010.
I'm sure, however, that the MILF would not take it negatively if the polls were to proceed as scheduled. Besides, the Commission of Elections has already prepared long and hard for this pilot implementation.
It would be a terrible waste of time and resources, not to mention the opportunity to showcase a modern election, if this political exercise is deferred further.