It seems that there are certain groups of people who are looking to increase the tension between China and the Philippines with regards to the standoff at Scarborough Shoal. They’re doing it through a ubiquitous medium that we couldn’t think of existing without nowadays: the Internet. And they’re doing it by perpetrating what I call cyber-skullduggery.
The first incident was reported on April 20, where hackers claiming to be from China defaced the UP system website. They posted a message “We come from China! Huangyan Island is Ours!”, along with a map which showed their territorial claim to the waters between the Philippines and the Chinese mainland.
The second action was reported to be a retaliation by certain Pinoy hacktivist groups to the UP website cyberattack mentioned above. The message was clear: “STFU. Chinese government is clearly retarded. Scarborough Shoal is ours!”
With Philippine infrastructure being what it is right now, I doubt these issues will ever be resolved, or will result in increased vigilance. We can probably expect more defacement to happen again in the near future. If more advanced countries are having difficulties in prosecuting cybercrime, does the Philippine government think they actually can do any better? Despite repeated calls by Malacañang to stop cyber-attacks involving the Panatag Shoal dispute and for government agencies to step up cyber-security measures, they themselves have yet to lay out any sort of solid framework to develop protection against attacks like these. To ask that there be legislation and infrastructure for cybercrime prosecution and prevention is, apparently, too much to ask.
If you ask me, the retaliation to Chinese websites reminds me of the pointless defacement of the US Embassy by the League of Filipino Students (LFS). It’s not exactly something to be proud of, okay?
We must ask ourselves many questions before we jump the gun about how low we the Philippines and China are willing to go. The following are just mere examples:
1. Have we thought that maybe these “pro-China” hackers who infiltrated the UP Website are not actually Chinese?
2. Assuming it was the Chinese, why would they perpetrate such cyber-skullduggery? What do they stand to gain from all this?
3. If the retaliation was indeed done by Filipino hacktivists, what were they trying to prove?
4. Where exactly is the intelligence gathering capability of the Philippine government?
5. Have we even considered that flaccid emo reactions are what exactly we don’t need in the situation we are in right now?
Even though we cannot ignore this type of incident, to focus on it for the wrong reasons will only bring about the degeneration of the situation. We must not let compound the tension in the situation by taking it out on people who have absolutely nothing to do with the incident, such as our Chinese civilians. We must not let the actions of a few, possibly rogue elements, determine our undertakings with those who are not involved. Most importantly, we must not allow emotion to be our guide in looking for solutions to this conflict.
Granted, the reaction of our government has been less than satisfactory. It’s difficult to fully appreciate and understand why they insist on such acquiescence. It’s difficult to understand why they seem so surprised by skullduggery being perpetrated on Philippine websites.
If the Philippines is showing that it is this vulnerable both in the real-world and online, the next step is to determine what we, as a people, and the government plan to do about it? We can’t sit around and do nothing; our friend Uncle Sam will not always be around to save our ass. The government must see this as a chance to prove that it can step up and stand for its people on its own without having to resort to mischief and extralegal means, and without having to resort to garnering popular support from other parties who don’t have as much vested interest as we do. If they can’t, a defacement will seem tame compared to the loss of face that they stand to incur. If the Philippine government wants to be respected by its citizens, then their neighbors, they have to earn it with solid action and not just empty rhetoric.