By Raissa Robles
In a room jammed with 62 newsmen yelling out questions, collectively clicking over a hundred photos and recording everything on expensive movie cameras, the mousy looking pair looked terribly out of place.
Filipino computer student Onel de Guzman, 24, wore rubber shoes, a gray shirt with white stripes, and with his untidy hair, looked every inch a computer nerd.
With his sister Irene, 26, they sat mostly with bowed heads, mumbling their answers in native Tagalog as hardened newsmen tried to pry a confession that they had unleashed the destructive Love Bug virus.
Both had pimples on their face. Both wore identical dark shades which Irene later confessed to Hot Manila were newly-bought for the occasion.
Both also clutched small towels. Onel repeatedly pressed his white towel against his face. Later, in the stifling heat, he pleaded an end to the press conference because of a massive headache.
Onel had a heart condition, his lawyer, Atty. Rolando Quimbo, added. Atty. Quimbo often had to remind his clients: "Don’t answer that," because everything could be used against them.
Only a handful of journalists were left when the two suspects agreed once more to answer questions.
When asked if he was the creator of the virus, De Guzman kept stopping and starting a sentence, and finally said, "I wasn’t the one who did it."
His lawyer, who bared that Wordstar 4 was the sum total of his computer knowledge, tried to explain what his client meant: "What he knows is he did not do anything wrong. He cannot also discount the possibility that maybe he did something which led to all these. But he also cannot say that he did not do anything, because it’s possible that somewhere along the way, it produced this kind of effect."
Onel’s school, AMA Computer College in Makati City, had disclosed the day before that he was one of the suspects because the Love Bug virus had a feature similar to his rejected college thesis. Onel commented that "maybe, it (the virus) just has a similarity to my thesis."
His thesis had been rejected as "immoral" by his professors because its stated purpose was to "use it to steal and retrieve" passwords so people can "spend more time on Internet without paying."
Quimbo claimed Onel had misused the word "steal", adding that English was not one of Onel’s strong points as evident in his thesis proposal which had glaring errors in grammar.
Onel hinted that he saw nothing wrong with retrieving other people’s passwords to enable others to "enjoy" free Internet access. He said "the Internet is supposed to be educational, so it should be for free." Asked if the Love Bug creator was right to have done what he did, he replied: "Siguro, kung ako ang tatanungin bilang isang programmer, sa akin lang ito, part ng kabataan yan. Siguro, hindi niya rin alam yon kung masama yon o makakabuti yon. (If you ask me as a programmer, this is only a part of youth. Maybe he did not also know if the effect would be bad or good.)
He disclosed that the code for his rejected thesis proposal was "almost 70% or 80% finished", adding "I wouldn’t have proposed it if I did not know how to make it."
He appeared stung by the question whether a Filipino, not a German, could indeed have made the virus.
Actually, puwede namang gumawa kahit Pilipino noon. Madali lang language ang Visual Basic. Even a simple programmer can do that. Kung pupunta ka ng Microsoft website, marami kang mababasa doon. (Actually, even a Filipino could have done it. Visual Basic is an easy (computer) language to use. Even a simple programmer can do that. If you go to the Microsoft website, you can read many things about Visual Basic).
He exonerated both his sister and her boyfriend Reonel Ramones of any wrongdoing. Hindi naman programmer yon (Ramones). Accounting yung course niya. Kung kayo, newscaster, pagprogramming kayo, anong kinalaman niyo doon? (He’s not a programmer. His course is accounting. If you, a newscaster, you’re asked to do programming, what would you know about programming?)
Although he failed to graduate last May 5 for lack of a thesis, he said he did not feel bad when it was rejected because "Parte yan ng buhay ng isang programmer. Wala akong magagawa doon. (That’s part of a programmer’s life. I can’t do anything about that.)
But Michael Buen, a co-suspect, graduated on May 5, which coincided with the time the Love Bug virus was launched, crippling many computers outside the Philippines.
Buen’s thesis, which allowed users to do multiple savings, had acknowledged Onel’s help.
AMA college officials speculated that features of the two theses could have been combined to create the virus.
Onel, however, defended his friend: Siguro masyado lang siyang magaling kaya masyado siyang nadiin. (Maybe he’s just being implicated because he’s very good.)
He also claimed he had never shown his code to his nine other friends who comprised the loose organization called GRAMMERSoft, which he said stood for "programmer software."
The word GRAMMERSoft appears in the Love Bug virus code. He also claimed he has not yet examined the Love Bug virus since "nobody has given me its source code."