Toxic fumes from politics

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 - The Philippine Star

As the May 9 national and local elections draw closer, campaign attacks and other politics-driven noise have noticeably notched up higher decibels. In the middle of the political battles between candidates, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) found itself as the latest victim of cyber attacks.

With its government website hacked, vital voters’ information were compromised and gave rise to the so-called “Comeleaks.” Apparently, the information technology (IT) department of the Comelec failed to sufficiently protect the poll body’s website firewall against hackers.   

Fortunately, IT experts from our own Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas were more vigilant and thwarted cyber attack attempts on their website. The foiled cyber attack attempt on the BSP website came on the heels of the hacking of the Bangladesh central bank that succeeded to transfer as much as $81 million to bogus accounts here in the Philippines.

The senators conducting the probe into the money laundering scam suspended their public hearing as they went back to campaign trail. They promised to resume the investigation when sessions resume after the May 9 elections.

While the political noise related to the upcoming elections grows louder each day, we took up a more sober topic in our weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay media forum the other day. We discussed the latest global agreement on climate change that was signed on April 22 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

On behalf of the Philippine government, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje signed the Conference of Parties (COP) agreement that was drafted in Paris in December last year.

The Philippines was among 175 countries that signed the COP agreement.

We also discussed the controversial “Comeleaks” with veteran election lawyer, Romulo Macalintal on the second part of our media forum we regularly hold at Cafe Adriatico in Remedios Circle in Malate.

Paje could not attend our forum. So he sent one of his deputies to represent him, DENR Undersecretary for Environment and International Environmental Affairs, Jonas Leones who joined him in New York for the COP signing.

Leones underscored the importance for the next administration to support the international agreement even though it was signed during the last few days of outgoing President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III. Leones said the COP agreement has nothing to do with Philippine politics, as it is a global commitment of the Philippines to work for the reduction of carbon emissions into the atmosphere to help prevent global warming that threatens the existence of mankind.

President Aquino himself gave the commitment that the Philippines would sign the climate change pact when he flew to Paris in December last year. Among other things, the Philippines made a firm commitment to the 70 percent reduction of carbon emissions being produced in our country.

Although our country is not a major contributor to carbon emissions, Leones pointed out, the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to natural disasters due to climate change. Our most recent experience with climate change disaster was the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, now considered as one of the world’s worst disasters to hit earth.

Leones said the prolonged El Niño in the Philippines is also one of the dangerous signs of global warming. The erratic rainy and summer seasons in our country, in fact, is already a clear manifestation of climate change, he added.

Through COP, Leones explained, there would be carbon-trading among signatory-nations that would allow countries that have higher carbon emissions to purchase the right to release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from countries like the Philippines that have lower carbon emissions.

Senator Loren Legarda, who joined the signing of the COP in New York, confirmed this. She went there as the Global Champion for Resilience of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

According to Sen. Legarda, a major component of the COP provides for a $100-billion mobilization fund that the Philippines, as one of the low-emitting developing economies can access as official development assistance from countries that contribute to this fund as the biggest carbon-emitters.

This is why, Sen. Legarda stressed, COP signatory nations must immediately ratify this agreement to make it operational before global warming gets any worse than it is at present. She hopes to spearhead at the Senate’s ratification of the COP when the members of the 17th Congress are elected. 

And speaking of elections, Macalintal assuaged public concern about the so-called “Comeleaks” as the poll body prepares to hold the country’s next presidential elections in two weeks time. Based on the timelines followed by the Comelec, Macalintal noted, the hacking of the voters’ list poses no real danger.

This is because, he said, the Comelec has already met and complied with the timetable and schedule of required pre-election activities before the hacking took place.

If there are grave concerns over the “Comeleaks,” Macalintal believed, these were coming from the rich and moneyed people who are worried about their bank accounts being hacked out of the voters’ information. Showing a copy of a “hacked” voter information about him, Macalintal said the same data can be found anyway in the Comelec’s precinct finder available on line.

Although one of the alleged hackers was already arrested, Macalintal urged the Comelec to similarly punish the poll body’s IT personnel who would be found negligent for their failure to fully protect the website against hacking.

He said the poll body should also consider a total purge of the voters’ list before May 2019 elections.

As a result of the “Comeleaks,” the campaign is getting hotter than El Niño.

 More toxic fumes are emitted from politics than climate change does.


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