CEBU, October 5, 2005
 (STAR) INSIDE CEBU By Bobit S. Avila - The big international news is that Bali, Indonesia’s famous paradise resort was once again struck by terrorists’ bombs, something people thought would not happen again since the first bombing three years ago. Meanwhile, back here at home, we’re still into the same, self-destructive political bickering, which more or less has the same effect on our fragile economy and foreign investors like the bombs that struck Bali.

This latest controversy involving President Arroyo’s Executive Order no. 464, which prohibits military officers from attending Senate investigations without the permission of the President who is the Commander-in-chief, has once more split this nation into those who believe that Mrs. Arroyo is right and those who think that she’s wrong. Undoubtedly, Senate investigations are really nothing but political circus, which is in aid of election. The President dubbed it herself as "in aid of destabilization". Let me add my 10 devalued centavos worth: I call it "in aid of entertainment" because after all those Senate investigations by 24 mini-dictators, I haven’t heard a law enacted from it.

I do agree with the E.O. that as far as military officers are concerned, the Senate should grill the commander-in-chief, not those who follow orders down the line. But I believe that government bureaucrats under the Executive Branch should be allowed to appear before the Senate, circus or no circus. But again, arguments can be made for or against this directive, hence, it should be up to the Supreme Court to enter the fray and give us its opinion as to who is right and who is wrong.

Then came the bombshell from Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago that Tita Cory and Senate President Franklin Drilon plotted to have the President assassinated…a story purportedly coming from a relative of Drilon. Come now Maid Miriam… when will this circus come to an end? We’re really sick and tired, not to mention nauseated, by all this yarns coming from the Senate. They should all be making movies instead of investigating fantasies!

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Talking about "That’s Entertainment" coming from the hallowed or should I say, the Hollywood halls of the Senate, let me point out that in Hollywood, the capital of the world’s entertainment industry, entertainment is depicted with two faces… one that is laughing, the other sad or crying. As far as the Senate is concerned, they give the Pinoy the sad part of entertainment. Perhaps it is time for us to talk about something light, something that gives us a happy face! Did you get a copy of Newsweek’s Special Double Issue, which bannered, "The Future of Entertainment?" If you want to know where high-technology is leading this world, you ought to read that story.

Remember the days when the Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Company (PLDT) was a monopoly and you just couldn’t get a phone when you wanted one, and calls to the United States were so prohibitive? Well, some years ago, when Globe Telecom came into the picture, they became trendsetters by dropping US call rates to $ 0.40 cents per minute. Back then this was heralded as great news to us subscribers, which forced PLDT and the other players to follow suit. Indeed the benefit of stiff competition is best exemplified in the telecommunications industry.

But like a thief in the night… without much fanfare except for a few ads…Globe Telecom has now dropped call rates to $ 0.05 cents per minute in all calls to the US and, of course, the rest of the telecommunications players have once more followed suit. But why wasn’t there any hoopla on this? We can only blame this on the coming of age of the so-called Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) system where Internet users can call friends and loved ones in the US via high-speed DSL or broadband lines for free! Well, not exactly free in the sense that you still have to pay for the use of your Internet service but then that VOIP call is practically unlimited.

With call rates dropping like flies, indeed the future of telecommunications is good for us consumers but I certainly can’t speak for those in the telecommunications industry. But with Internet use going into far-flung areas or barrios, telecom service providers are tapping into markets that previously they could never hope to tap. Hence, while they may lose business with cheaper call rates, more people are now making foreign calls.

But what about the future of the cellphone? Ah, if you read what Microsoft’s Bill Gates is planning to do, he wants to turn the cellphone into a digital entertainment center, which if you looked at what Nokia and Sony Ericsson are offering these days — selling phones that double as your Walkman — you’ll have a general idea of where technology is leading to. Of course, the present products offered by Nokia or Sony Ericsson cannot yet match the huge 20-gigabyte capacity of my iPod, where I can store close to 4,000 songs. Now, should iPod be made into a cellphone? Ask Apple!

Perhaps the big question to ask about the future of the cellphone is when will 3G come of age in this country? Will 3G finally come to our shores or are we seeing the development of a system far superior than the present GSM? I’ve been told that the future of the cellphone is tied to the future of the entertainment industry, which industry insiders call "content". This means that calling or texting your friends through cellphone is only one of the things that it will be able to do… the future includes downloading music and yes, even short videos.

That Newsweek article gives us an insight into the bright future of entertainment, despite the continued operation of pirated DVD-VCD discs makers because phone companies are starting to accept the reality that if they only sell telephones without serving their customers with what is called "content," then the future of that phone company would be bleak. So, the real problem lies in whether the GSM system can be adopted to download articles, music or videos at broadband speeds.

So, before you go buy the latest cellphone with a camera in the market, perhaps you should wait a little longer as you just might be purchasing a product that is already obsolete! I mean if you’re happy with a two-megapixel camera on your phone, just wait till it hits five megapixels a few months from now with full video capability. At least on that note, we know that GSM isn’t yet obsolete like the analog phones that it has replaced.

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For email responses to this article, write to Bobit Avila’s columns can also be accessed through He also hosts a weekly talkshow entitled, "Straight from the Sky" shown every Monday only in Metro Cebu on Channel 15 on SkyCable at 8p.m.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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