Monday, November 20, 2006

Philippine Computer Society's (PCS) position on House Bill 5769 - the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) Bill

This is the Philippine Computer Society's (PCS) position on House Bill 5769 otherwise known as the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) Bill.

  1. The Philippine Computer Society, composed of the country’s leading ICT professionals and practitioners from the business, academe and government sectors, believes strongly that both the government and the private sector should continue to have the freedom to choose either open source software or proprietary, commercial software. This is because the decision to choose one or the other -- or even both -- should be based on a careful assessment of the specific needs and objectives of an organization and not forced upon them by legal fiat;
  2. Both open source and commercial software have their corresponding merits and benefits that they bring to an organization's operations in terms of productivity, cost-effectiveness, mission-criticality, technical support, service level performance standards, and so on and so forth. The two kinds of software need not be mutually exclusive. In fact they can be used together in an integral and complimentary manner way, allowing a company access to the best of both worlds so to speak;
  3. By mandating the use of open source software, the government will effectively deprive itself and the public from making full and optimal use of software, which has become essential to a company’s viability and competitiveness. Organizations in both the public and private sectors would be forced to use software that does not exactly meet their needs but that they have to make do with because that would be as far as the law would allow. That would be tantamount to handicapping private companies in doing their business, rather than giving them the freedom and flexibility to survive and progress in an increasingly-competitive global business environment. It may also handicapped government agencies in delivering services to their respective constituencies. Moreover, billions of pesos have already been invested in the acquisition, training and use of contracted software. To mandate the use of open source would be tantamount also to throwing these investments down the drain, so to speak. Incidentally, Article III, Section 10 of the Philippine Constitution states that “No law curtailing the obligation of contracts shall be passed”. Since the license and use of proprietary, commercial software are covered by contracts, mandating the use of open source may be a violation of the aforementioned constitutional provision;
  4. The PCS is also not in favor of a certain provision in the bill declaring it unlawful for educational institutions to offer professional certification programs for proprietary software unless they also offer a similar certification program for FOSS. We believe that this is not only an encroachment on academic freedom – it adds additional burden and expense to schools that they may not be able to fulfill and may result in their closure. Longer-term, it could have the effect of reducing the number of schools offering such certification courses and limiting opportunities for Filipinos to take up certification programs that would assure them of guaranteed employment here or abroad;
  5. Passage of the FOSS Bill will also effectively isolate the Philippine ICT industry from the rest of the world where dynamic growth continues to take place precisely because an environment of freedom and competitiveness and protection for intellectual property rights exists in most other countries. At this time when the Philippines is finally making good economic progress, with ICT as one of its main drivers, the Philippines cannot afford to be put at a great disadvantage as the FOSS bill would surely do if passed into law;
  6. We strongly believe that Government policies should remain neutral and not show preference or bias towards certain operating and application systems over others. The government must protect freedom of choice and competition for it is through competition where innovation thrives and new, revolutionary products emerge.

In conclusion, the PCS is not against FOSS. On the contrary, the PCS is for encouraging organizations, government and private, to avail for themselves the best of both worlds. But what we cannot agree to is curtailing the freedom of organizations, including government agencies, government-owned and/or -controlled corporations, public elementary and high schools, and state colleges and universities, to decide for themselves the most appropriate and cost-effective software to utilize to address their needs. Thus, we pray that this freedom should not be taken away.


  1. Should this become law, it will not contribute to the development of Philippine ICT. I’ll even venture to say that it could be harmful. Limiting technology usage is counter to the drive, the spirit of information technology. I used to use open-source programs to develop web applications, but this Bill does not make me happy. In fact, it is downright condescending.

    It is apparent that the authors of this Bill have not taken into consideration the real deal behind Open Source. Government is to be provided upgrades, patches, etc. for free? How do you think Open Source practitioners make a living? Selling dirt cheap software? Government is to have full rights of ownership to software derivatives? What future business can an open source provider hope for then?

    I sincerely hope that this Bill will not prosper. Should it be enacted into law, our country will be the laughing stock of the global IT community.

  2. By adapting FOSS this will give our country the edge of innovating new products in ICT and encourage our students to become enterpreneurs instead of being dependent to technology of other country. This will help solve the brain drain that our country is having a problem, where people with skills go abroad for a greener pasture. It will also allow graduates to help in the economy of the country by becoming part of the front row in technological breakthroughs.

    The absence of Software Patent is not detrimental of FOSS innovating new standards. And, one of the reasons why the ecology of FOSS is vibrant in leap and bounds. This proves that Software patent is not a need of being a driving force behind IT innovation.

    FOSS is not anti-business as it allows one of selling the softwares or services and have been responsible behind the success of Thawte, Google, and outsourcing companies and freelancers in the Philippines employing FOSS. Today, FOSS have become viable of providing computerization needs and have surpassed security and stability of proprietary softwares.

    The ability of implementors or service providers of extending the software proves that the adoption will not become limiting to ICT nor shall it limit the full potential of ICT. On the contrary, it challenges the ICT to provide technological solutions for public service without the need of exurbitant fees and expenditures. Billions have been spent and yet, little have been accomplished. Through FOSS, we can stretch that to building up IT infrastructure for the public good and avoid “technological hostage” from proprietary vendors or what we simply call vendor lock-in. Our country's reliance to proprietary vendors, whose known implementations are not in line with “Open Standards” will make it inevitable for us to continue spending billions with little gain.

    FOSS can also help in fighting against “Software Piracy” that have become prevalent in our government and society. With the government adapting and interoperating on FOSS, one is not forced to resort to proprietary softwares. The money we spend going after Software Pirates can now be given to what matters most --- public service.

    The PCS and the anti-FOSS Bill are spreading their ignorance on the opportunities and capabilities of FOSS for our country.

  3. And even here you are still misguided, Mr. Jayme. Neither PCS nor PSIA are against FOSS. They, as I am, are against the FOSS Bill authored by Casiño.

    You are so adamant about Filipinos being dependent on the technology of other countries. Why, is Linux not foreign? Is my beloved PHP not from a foreign country? I do suppose you are a proponent of these technologies, aren't you? Please present your arguments unassailably, or else just stick to that which you are most familiar.