SONA 2020

Please, not a government-controlled internet

Gelo Gonzales
Please, not a government-controlled internet
After ABS-CBN, are Globe and Smart next?

I don’t wish to sensationalize, but when I heard the President specifically take aim at PLDT-owned Smart and Globe in his 5th State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 27, it galvanized in me the belief that this is a government that has already thought of ways to control what is now the final bastion of liberty, the internet. 

This is a government that has shown, time and again, its obsession with control, and its inability to use criticism as a mirror to help fix its hair – instead bashing said mirror. The internet, despite the prevalence of coordinated social media influence campaigns, has not completely bowed to its whims. Just ask Bong Go, whose complaints relating to cyberlibel got him the social media spanking of the year. 

Certainly, if it installs a friendly internet service provider through the so-called 3rd telco, Dito, owned by top Duterte campaign donor Dennis Uy, it would likely have a better measure of control over whatever goes on in those fiber cables. Let’s hope we don’t get our own version of the Great Firewall of China, which allows the China government to monitor users, limit access, and censor dissent.  

Calling upon his trademark populist style, Duterte declared: “I will be the one to articulate the anger of the Filipino people, and you might not want what I intend to do with you. Kindly improve your services before December.” 

Itong Smart pati Globe, ilang taon na ito? At ang sagot palagi sa akin, they cannot be reached. Saan napunta ‘yung yawa na ‘yun? Eh kung ganun lang naman ang ibigay ninyo sa amin, we are a republic, sovereign country. Bear that in mind I because the patience of the Filipino people is reaching its limit.” (Smart and Globe, how many years have their issues been around? Their answer is always, they cannot be reached. Where’d those devils go? If that’s what they give to use, we are a republic, sovereign country. Bear that in mind I because the patience of the Filipino people is reaching its limit.)

“Tell us now if you cannot really improve on it. The next 2 years will be spent improving the telcos of this country without you. I will find a way. I will talk to Congress and find a way to do it.” 

The message seems clear: Smart and Globe go the way of ABS-CBN if they cannot clear the creative legal hurdles that will be laid out before them soon, enforced by obsequious lawmakers that clap at the President’s behest. 

My co-editor and I have had issues with Globe and Smart in the past, and we’ve not been quiet about it. (READ: With hotlines hampered, complaints flood PLDT, Globe social media pages) But the way I see it, this government is once again seeing a chance to further increase its power, and control one of the few last places where authorities get exposed, and duly castigated.

We’ve cried for a third telco exactly because the duopoly isn’t working for the consumer. A monopoly’s the last thing we want – least of all, one that’s beholden to the government. 

Defend internet freedom. –

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.