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How the Philippines Changed Its OOXML Vote from No to Yes - Updated 2Xs: ISO Press Release & Letters
Wednesday, April 02 2008 @ 12:36 AM EDT

The Manila Bulletin Online tells us how the Philippines changed its No vote on OOXML to Yes. Once again there is an indication that when no consensus was reached, the chairman decided to make it Yes. That blatantly happened in Norway, and I can't help but want more details about the Philippines.

Take a look and see what you think:

The nine members of the technical committee tasked to evaluate the country's position came up with a razor-thin 5-4 decision in favor of the Microsoft-backed document format, said Reyes in a phone interview.

The voting process was as tight as it can get, with most representatives from the government sector electing to reject the document format. However, the chair of the committee, Philip Barilla of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), tilted the balance of power to the "yes" side.

That sounds familiar, doesn't it? The technical people fervently say no. Isn't the rule that the decision has to be by consensus and if that isn't possible, one is supposed to vote Abstain? That is what Australia told us, and that is what I understood from the Directives.

Update 2: Open Malaysia Blog now has an update on the voting in the Philippines (PSIA voted Disapprove while CICT NCC voted Approve), and also some letters explaining why folks voted the way they did.

And the opposition never changed their minds:

According to Reyes, a number of institutions, both local and international, fiercely articulated their opposition to the document's approval as an ISO standard. Among those who wrote to express their objection were open source advocates Red Hat, Google, and the ODF Alliance.

Reyes said the BPS also solicited the opinions of top industry groups ITAP (Information Technology Association of the Philippines) and ITFP (Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines), but the organizations did not submit any position on the issue.

ITAP? ITFP? Where were you? Or is it true your views were solicited? And if anyone there in that country has more details, I'm all ears.

Here's the breakdown on who supported and who didn't, and maybe you guys can help me figure out who is who on the list of supporters:

Also voting in favor of the Open XML's approval were Peter Que of the Philippine Computer Society, Beng Coronel of the Philippine Software Industry Association, George Kintanar of the CIO Forum, and Juan Chua of the Computer Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers Association of the Philippines.

Casting the negative votes were Julie Sudario of the CICT's National Computer Center, Peter Banzon of the Advanced Science and Technology Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Prospero Naval of the computer science department of the state-owned University of the Philippines, and Darwin Santos of the DOST's Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development.

Also, if anyone is reading this in the Philippines, if there are local rules for your standards body, The Bureau of Product Standards (BPS), an agency under the Department of Trade and Industry, and how it should conduct itself in its dealings with ISO, I'd be very interested to read them.

On the subject of how the voting is supposed to go, Avi Alkalay, one of the delegates in Brazil, has published an Open Letter to YES-voting and ABSTAIN-voting Countries that asks how they match up their votes with the Directives:

The JTC1 rules [PDF] page 49 item 9.8 says:
NBs may reply in one of the following ways:
  • Approval of the technical content of the DIS as presented (editorial or other comments may be appended);

  • Disapproval of the DIS (or DAM) for technical reasons to be stated, with proposals for changes that would make the document acceptable (acceptance of these proposals shall be referred to the NB concerned for confirmation that the vote can be changed to approval);

  • Abstention (see 9.1.2).

[Note: Conditional approval should be submitted as a disapproval vote.]

In other words, from my understanding, if there is one or more technical problems, the NB must disapprove the DIS. Many countries found many technical problems in OOXML that are still unresolved even after the BRM.

I also understand that such an important matter as an International Standard for Office Documents can’t be defined by 10 or 30 opinions collected as votes in a committee. Thats why the JTC1 process above talks about technical content, not opinion or vote. What I learned from studying the OOXML specification is that it is not ready for acceptance since many countries have found and reached consensus that the spec has problems, even after the BRM. If the NB-leveraged technical team — formed by people that would vote YES and NO — has produced a list of submitted problems in the spec, this list is by itself the consensus that the spec is still problematic.

I would like to understand why an NB that has produced technical comments voted YES or ABSTAINED. I thought abstention is a position for countries that were not able to create a committee to technically discuss the specification for reasons such as logistics or lack of quorum.

Update: Here's the official ISO press release. A snip:

2008-04-02

ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology – Office Open XML file formats, has received the necessary number of votes for approval as an ISO/IEC International Standard. Approval required at least 2/3 (i.e. 66.66 %) of the votes cast by national bodies participating in the joint technical committee ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information technology, to be positive; and no more than 1/4 (i.e. 25 %) of the total number of ISO/IEC national body votes cast to be negative. These criteria have now been met with 75 % of the JTC 1 participating member votes cast positive and 14 % of the total of national member body votes cast negative.


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