and we'll do
free unlimited email connectivity to remote rural
Standard, Business Sunday
Columnist: Jing Garcia
Editor: Ramon Tomeldan
Date: July 1, 2001, Sunday
Title: A day in the Life of JOEL DISINI
The man who kicked up a storm in cyberspace is a great
benefactor to residents of Botolan, Zambales.
BOTOLAN is a town in Zambales, about 2 hours of road travel
after passing Olongapo. This small rural community is proud of
its church located in the main town plaza. Santa Monica
Church, as the early friars christened it, was carved from
coral stones. Very unique indeed.
Last June 16, the town was even prouder, as it became the
second recipient of a free e-mail program driven by the people
behind PH Domain Foundation, a social outreach arm of the
local PH Domain Registry or known to the local Internet
community as dotPH. A company spearheaded by Email Company
(EMC) founder and the Philippine Domain's one and only
registrar, the controversial Joel Disini.
Worldwideweb at the grassroots
On the way to Zambales that Saturday morning, I had the
opportunity to spend some time with Disini, who made friends
and enemies both at the same time in the local Net community
because of his "monopolistic" handling of the PH
domain name. Along with the group who were mostly members of
EMC and the foundation, we discussed a variety of subjects
that concerns local IT and some not. A lighthearted chat that
gave me some ideas on how these people work, especially Joel.
"The problem with IBM is you can't get any support,"
teased Joel addressing an experience to his partner Noel
Morales who was with us inside the van and used to be a brand
manager at IBM, now a board member of the foundation. I myself
was not able to escape Disini's amusing taunts, particularly
when I mistakenly mentioned that I wrote something in my
weekly Friday column for this newspaper a commentary on the
dotPH issue. When he asked what was it about, I immediately
said, "I forgot" to get away from a situation I
already deemed awkward. "You conveniently forgot"
As the Hyundai Starex arrived at the corner of Col. Jose Guido
Street and the main provincial road, there was an obvious
atmosphere of anticipation. By the time of our approach, a
crowd had gathered in front of a small shop painted in blue
and adorned by two large glass pane windows, by the side of a
stretch of uncemented road. They were curious about this whole
free e-mail thing.
The one-story unit was provided by the Botolan Credit
Development Cooperative, a group that was chosen by the
foundation as a major partner for the program. The one room
shop contains four computers donated to the foundations and
will be used to provide the free mail service for the township
After a brief and simple ribbon cutting ceremony, lunch was
served for the visitors from Manila and some local VIPs.
Disini, sporting a white Nautica sport shirt and casual
slacks, mixed well with the locals, something his critics back
in Manila would simply find unusual. Over lunch, he was
straightforward with the townfolks he had conversation with
around the table. There was something in him that I failed to
see when I chanced on Joel at an ITECC meeting more than a
month ago where a heated debate with his opponents on the
dotPH controversy was on that day. If ever this guy would run
for mayor of Botolan, I am sure he would win hands down.
"I want more of this, more in remote locations because
the Internet is such a powerful tool, in fact this is a
continuing process, next week we'll be there far up
north" said Joel as I converse with him to reveal my
purpose of going along in that whole-day trip.
Certainly, Joel Disini is not new in the IT business. A
graduate of the California Institute of Technology, he started
an ISP called EMC way back 1989 and along with that
initialized Internet connectivity as fas as Davao and Bukidnon.
However, his continued hold on the PH Domain Registry is a
contentious issue that does not seem to end. Accusations of
unfair pricing on .ph domain names and abuses in administering
the Philippine country code top level domain has been thrown
recently to Joel and his company to the Department of Trade
and Industry; and even threats of elevating the entire domain
name concern to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers or ICANN, the organization that gave Disini the
"The company intends to expand its domain and improve
services and the products because the domain market is very
aggressive," answered Joel when asked about the matter
his company is in right now. The change in the mode of payment
from lifetime to annual was one question that hit Joel's
company pretty hard. "Everyone is doing it annually and
to keep up with competition, we have to do the same."
If you try to analyze it, domain registry may be big business,
especially if you are the sole registrar in your country. With
more than 10,000 .ph registrants, paying at least $35 or so,
annually, then money can actually just pour in. "They
think we are raking money out of this move but actually we
just want to improve everything."
Regarding the DotPhone services, Disini explains, "This
is not losing the ph identity, as everyone would like you to
believe, it will be just an extention of our current
services" and continued, "we will retain the
Philippine domain but at the same time adding phone features
allowing your domain interact with any phone around the globe;
we just have to keep up with technology and we are trying to
do it right now."
"All this talk about losing the ph identity is pure
paranoia," he firmly stressed. Commenting on why he is
the pet peeve among a sector of the local Net society that has
portrayed him as some sort of a cunning "manipulative
ass" slowing down the growth of the country's Internet
community, he can only say, "They don't know me, I'm
always in my office and I work hard; I have my own theories as
to their motives." And he stopped there. "This
initiative I'm doing right now (free e-mail in remote areas)
is more rewarding" Honestly? I asked. "Yes,
On that day, at least, I saw a Joel Disini that seemed to be
uncomplicated and full of beliefs. On that day too, he put
some smiles on the faces of Botoleños. Will he be able to do
the same to his detractors?
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