Last week the US National Security Agency (NSA) was forced to admit it has been conducting covert collection of information on both US citizens and foreigners since 2007. This came out after news reports revealed the existence of a program called Prism, which reportedly enabled the NSA to access information from service providers and telecommunication companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Verizon. Edward former NSA employee, admitted that he leaked information about Prism to media sources after he realized its implications on civil liberties.
Many studies show we humans are experts at finding patterns. We see patterns even in the seeming random occurrences around us such as stars forming constellations, clouds forming familiar shapes or numbers lining up to our visual delight. We cannot resist toput the familiar into what we perceive through our eyes and other senses.
One has to dig deeper beyond perception in order to validate the existence of such patterns. The constellations that we form in the night sky turn out to be stars that are separated by millions of kilometers away from each other that only look to line up with each other when viewed from the Earth. Worse, these constellations change as these stars move ever so slowly relative to our solar system. What is the North star for us right now, Polaris, would not be at that position in a few hundreds of million of years as it was not the North star a few hundreds of millions of years past.
The recent buzz on the supposed 60:30:10 party ratio found in the midterm senatorial elections has generated various reactions from different sectors and spawned data analysis by IT experts and other academics. The said pattern was initially observed by former Comelec IT officer Ernie del Rosario and was demonstrated by Ateneo Prof. Lex Muga in a Facebook post.
An explanation for the observed pattern was later given in terms of the law of large numbers. Since the Comelec reports posted in the transparency server aggregates the data at a national, and therefore large, numbers, the said explanation is an acceptable one. One should also appreciate that when we talk of percentages in this election, one percent of the total number of registered voters is already a number that is just a bit larger than half a million.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes announced a few days ago that the Comelec will not anymore conduct another mock polls prior to the May polls. This is despite the many major glitches that were observed during the February 2 mock elections and the still unresolved issues of the source code powering the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. During the mock trials, volunteer observers from Kontra Daya and other groups documented some ballots being rejected by the PCOS machines and delay in the transmission of election results to the canvassing centers.
During the recent mock test for the 2013 elections conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) last Saturday, citizen’s groups and poll watchdogs observed several serious problems that could affect the conduct of the coming May polls.
In 2010, we wrote a series of columns devoted to the problems that we foresaw in the automated election system (AES) that was to be used in that year’s election. We listed several problems such as those arising from the compact flash cards, communications failures, the queue of voters during election day and the lack of a voter-verifiable-audit trail that is inherent in the AES system.
Undersecretary Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, told a press briefing last Tuesday that President Benigno Aquino III has rejected the proposed P125 legislated wage hike for minimum earners. Valte told her audience that upon consulting Aquino about the proposal Tuesday morning, he presented to them a computation showing that employers will be shelling out P42,250 for the salary increase of each employee. Showing a slide with the calculations, the Palace people got this figure by multiplying P125 by 26 days and multiplied the result further by 13 months. They added that this P42,250 multiplied by 38 million workers in the country would result in expenditures for employees of P1.6 trillion (mistakenly written as 1,605,500,000 trillion [or 1.6 billion trillion] in their slide).
As the year comes to a close, it now appears that Typhoon Sendong (international name Washi) is the deadliest storm of 2011. It affected more than 27,000 families in around 190 barangays, in 24 municipalities and cities in the 13 provinces of Region VI, Region VII, Region IX, Region X, Region XI, CARAGA and the ARMM. Retrieval operations are still going on and thousands of families remain in evacuation centers as their houses were destroyed and swept away by flash floods. With nearly a thousand dead and still more missing, many are asking how ready the Philippines is as a country to increased hazards such as typhoons and other climate change effects.
Yesterday marked the birth anniversary of Andres Boni-facio, Filipino nationalist, revolutionary and Supremo of the Katipunan. His anniversary yesterday was marked by protests actions in the metropolis by workers and peasants due to the ever increasing costs of living nowadays. Pressed by current economic concerns, people made the celebration of his birth also a time to reflect on the value of heroism in our time.
WE mark today one year since our top beloved botanist Leonard Co and his companions, forest guard Sofronio Cortez and farmer guide Julius Borromeo, were shot dead by members of the 19th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Kananga, Leyte province.