Victims of Military abductions surfaced due to Writ of Amparo
Full text of the writ of Amparo can be found here

Printed copies available, email rbahaguejr [at] gmail [dot] com

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Primer on House Bill No. 1716 (FOSS Act of 2007)

This primer was drafted for the Computer Professionals' Union. The final version is posted at CP-Union's site.

1.What is HB 1716?


2.What is Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) ?

FOSS is software with a licensed allowing anyone to use, redistribute, study, and modify a part or the whole software. FOSS is very different from proprietary software like (Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop).

FOSS is usually cheaper than proprierary software and is commonly acquired through downloads in the internet.

Most proprietary software already have FOSS equivalents. The FOSS equivalents are already at par with the proprietary counterparts. For example, MS Office Productivity Suite can already be replaced by an excellent FOSS called OpenOffice.Org.

Some differences between proprietary software and FOSS:


Users should pay for licenses to be able to use the software
Users do not have to pay for licenses
Licenses are restricted to a limited number of machines or users. No redistribution is allowed. Doing so, is called piracy.
Redistribution is encourage. FOSS users build communities to help everyone using FOSS.
Modification is not allowed. All new features or bug-fixing are done by the developer or company. Modifications by users are again called piracy. This characteristic of proprietary software locks users to the provider of software.
Modification is encourage. FOSS are develop by contributors all over the world. The popular Debian GNU/Linux distribution has more than 1,000 developers contributing to the project.
Restriction on users' usage of the software is imposed by the End User License Agreement (EULA).
The GNU General Public License protects users of FOSS from possible monopoly restrictions.

3.What does the FREE/OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE ACT OF 2007 proposes?

The FREE/OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE ACT OF 2007 mandates the government to use open standards, open formats, and FOSS in its data storage, communications, documents and ICT goods and services.

However, during “extraordinary circumstances” where open formats, open standards, and FOSS are not available, proprietary standards, formats and software may be allowed subject to interoperability and compatibility with open standards, open formats and FOSS.
4.Why is it important to have an open standard in ICT goods and services of the government?

An open standards is a published and widely available standard developed through open-decision making by interested parties.The standard should also be available to all to read and implement.

Open standards eliminates eliminates vendor lock-in. It creates fair, competitive market for implementation of the standard. Having an open standards is a prerequisite for interoperability of ICT goods and services. Interoperability creates a seamless integration of systems of different agencies.

5.Why is it important to have an open format in government data?

An open format is a published specification or an implementation of an open standard for storing digital data (this includes office documents, videos, music, images, and other “soft” data). Like an open standard, open format specifications are also available to anyone to read and implement. Examples of open formats; jpeg, png, svg, vrmg, html, OpenDocument, Office Open XML, pdf and XML.

Government data are public data. They should be available to the people. Having an open format on data storage protects the public from not being able to access and read government documents. The implementation of open data format eliminates the existing practice that to be able to read government documents the public needs proprietary software.

Open data format will allow the public to access and read government data without being forced to acquire proprietary software since FOSS can be used already.

6.What are some examples of proprietary standards and formats implemented in the government now?

The government is the single biggest consumer of ICT goods and services. It spends billions of pesos to implement systems for public use. The GSIS e-card, for instance, is being implement with proprietary system. This proprietary system locks the government to a single vendor, the UnionBank of the Philippines, in all its modifications and implementations. Thus, the government is tied to pay whatever the vendor tells it to pay. Since proprietary standards and formats are used on the GSIS system no other vendor can compete.

7.Why is it important to mandate FOSS in government agencies?

Government agencies are almost only users of Office Productivity Suite. There are other agencies that require proprietary software but most can be considered already on the defined “extraordinary conditions” of the bill. Thus, government agencies should now impose usage of equivalent FOSS office productivity suite. is the best replacement to proprietary office suite.

Mandating FOSS to government agencies will lower cost of ICT implementations. Rather than spending on software which have FOSS equivalents, additional hardware can be acquired instead. FOSS more importantly, reduces dependence on proprietary technologies which are owned by foreign companies.

FOSS in government agencies is not new. DOST, NEDA, DTI, Supreme Court in some extent have been using FOSS in their sytems.

8.Does the Bill prohibits proprietary systems in government agencies?

The short answer is a big NO.

There are fields of ICT that FOSS equivalents do not exists or the existing FOSS is not yet ready for wide usage. On this cases, proprietary software can be used. The Bill defines “extraordinary circumstances” to address this concern.

But the Bill requires that in “extraordinary circumstances” proprietary software should be interoperable with systems in open standard, open format, and FOSS. It gives preference to proprietary systems that “offers license most similar to FOSS”.

9.What are the benefits of the Bill to the public?

The Bill will help in protecting the “people's right to access public information”; “lowering the overall cost of ICT in the public and private sectors by reducing the country's dependence on proprietary software and computer applications”; “making iCT more accessible to a greater number of users”; “unlocking the potential and encouraging the development of self-reliant, genuinely Filipino IT industry; and “Providing greater security for highly sensitive government and private information systems”.

10.Are private companies covered by the Bill?


However, the government will provide incentives to the private sector for supporting open standards, open formats, and FOSS.

11.What is the stand of the Bill on current ICT procurement practices in the government?

The Bill requires that the government will not acquire “ICT goods and services that are restricted for use in a single vendor environment only. All prospective ICT investments of the government shall comply with open standards.” It also gives preference to Filipino-owned ICT companies.

12. The Philippine Software Industry Association says that the Bill will hinder the government from having informed choice in procuring ICT system, is this true? And rather than encouraging, it will hamper growth in the ICT industry?

The Computer Professionals' Union has a dissection of the PSIA's position on the open source bill at

The Computer Professionals' Union has been helping the office of Representative Casino in various forms in order to push the Bill in the Philippine Congress.

The Bill does not restrict government choices on ICT systems to only use FOSS. Furthermore, the mandate that sytems should conform with open standards and open format does not restrict government agencies to study and research on systems they need. In fact, it forces them to be well informed such that interoperability with current systems is ensured.

The Bill will not hamper development in the ICT industry. In fact, it gives opportunities to small FOSS companies to compete with big vendors. The requirement that open standard and open formats allows anyone to read and implement specifications of government ICT needs.

13. Are there any relationship between open standards, open formats and FOSS and the current Intellectual Property Code?

Open Standards, Open Formats and FOSS are all against patents and monopoly on ideas.

The Bill ammends the current Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines to exclude “software patents”.

“Section 22. Non-Patentable Inventions – The following shall be excluded from patent protection:
22.6. Computer programs, techniques, and methods in computing and arranging data for use in digital format, including algorithms;

22.7. Protocols, specifications, methods of arranging data that are known to form part of open standards or are integral to implementation of open standards: and ...

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