Loyalty to Pinoy data

"There are serious issues to this setup."



We often hear “data is the new oil” but why, and who are mining and refining our very own Pinoy data? 

We must be more mindful as to who is mining our data, more so, refining them. In the similar way as how our Constitution protects national patrimony and economy when it restricts foreign ownership of certain industries, we Filipinos must keep our data controllership within our fellow nationals. In this time when threats to cyber warfare involve actions by nation states or international organizations to attack and attempt to damage another’s computer or information networks, we should be more wary and protective of our communication network and data infrastructure. 

Recently, cybersecurity firms report tripled data breaches affecting schools globally last year. We ask, why target schools? What is it with schools that are useful to hackers anyway? For an enterprising, forward-looking state that would want to influence another state of its ideology, acquiring data of the latter’s young citizens is vital in identifying whom to recruit to advance the former’s agenda. Filipinos must realize now, more than ever, that our data is being weaponized by foreign adversaries and the battlefield is the internet.

Every nation has state secrets concealed under lock and key. Getting access to those extremely confidential documents and information which are commonly characterized as classified is an executive privilege granted to top ranked officials headed by the President no less. Breach or theft of such confidentiality could be treated as treason which is a capital offense punishable by life imprisonment or death. 

This is where spies come in. These undercover operatives or sleuths are extensively trained in gathering intelligence, often through illicit fashion. They are so good in what they do. Filmmakers go nuts over spy stories—fiction or nonfiction—which moviegoers pay good money to be entertained. 

Policy experts view with deep concern what they believe is an irresponsible and prejudicial penchant of financial institutions to hire foreigners in violation of specific laws. While recent law relaxes the ban on foreign participation in the financial system, it maintains that the financial system should remain to be “effectively controlled by Filipinos.” Thus, foreigners are prohibited from occupying key positions in order to protect the interests of Filipinos from foreign influence or intervention, such as leakage of information, espionage, national security, and economic sabotage. 

Although R.A. 10641 opened the door wider for the entry of foreign banks, the Philippine banking system is still largely considered as partly nationalized. Additionally, the Manual of Regulation on Banks (MORB) provides that foreigners cannot be officers or employees of local banks. But there is an exception to this rule: Philippine banks may hire highly technical personnel specifically authorized by the Secretary of Justice under Commonwealth Act No. 108 also known as “The Anti-Dummy Law.” 

Since hiring foreigners has its equal measure in denying employment opportunities for local workers, the state ensures that special skills and technology transfer takes place between the aliens and the local hands. That is always part of the deal to ensure a “Filipino First Policy” in the Philippine labor market, and there is no way to go around or circumvent it. To be clear, the “Filipino First Policy” as enshrined in the Constitution is not only a policy on employment but a matter of sovereignty.

A certain financial institution is reportedly experiencing a worsening manpower shortage in sensitive posts as an offshoot of local talents quitting their jobs in frustration—call it silent protest—over a growing discontent arising from alleged excessive and at times unnecessary hiring of foreigners by their company. In fact, these foreigners who are hired as consultants take part in meetings of the management committees, which are generally composed of high-level executives and board officers.

Even more, these foreign consultants supposedly provide recommendations that are adopted in toto by the board of directors. Thus, it appears that these foreign consultants actively and indirectly intervene in the management, administration, and operation of the financial institution without necessarily putting their names on paper that is needed for accountability.

Their sentiments however do not go unnoticed. The mass exodus has raised a question on whether the company discriminately favors foreigners over Filipinos to perform key functions. It has triggered deep concern among pertinent financial experts who invariably feel that something has to be done about it, considering that needless exposure of valuable information might be at risk. 

Consider this: Foreign executives of financial institutions love to publicly talk about data jobs, and brag about what they think of magnificent performance they have been doing. It is unequivocally dangerous to let financial institutions be manned by a team of foreigners – they are not loyal to Filipino data. The foreigners reportedly have untrammeled access to vital corporate information. Maybe, that was part of the deal to enable them to efficiently perform their task with a view to giving the financial institutions the upper hand in this highly competitive industry. Again, this opens up risks not just corporate espionage but also cyber warfare with foreign countries.

It is equally dangerous for financial institutions with foreign executives to share commercially sensitive information to a director of a competitor institution. This penchant of these foreign executives to share and brag about their own perceived successful numbers and processed data is being displayed in conferences and public events among financial institution circles wherein commercially sensitive information is unwittingly shared with participants, including high level executives of competitors in the industry.

There are other serious issues to the setup, and pertinent authorities should take a closer look at the conspicuous presence of foreigners in financial, information and technology entities that are into data science and services. Filipino First Policy should be implemented in the grant of rights, privileges, and concessions covering the national economy and patrimony. The preferential right over Filipinos as to the national patrimony is viewed not only with respect to natural resources but also to our culture as found in electronic form – the data of our race.

Topics: cybersecurity , “The Anti-Dummy Law" , Manual of Regulation on Banks
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