Bill gives netizens say in passage of PH laws

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MANILA, Philippines – Netizens—bloggers, maybe even trolls—stand to play a vital role in the passage of the country’s laws if a proposed Crowdsourcing Act is enacted.

Under Senator Teofisto Guingona III’s Senate Bill No. 33000, the President will have up to five days to receive online comments regarding a bill that has passed Congress and at least three more days to consider the netizens’ views before deciding to sign the measure into law or not.

The bill also seeks to institutionalize online comments as part of the official records of Congress whenever it considers a bill.

Guingona filed the bill weeks after President Benigno Aquino III triggered widespread protest from users of social media by signing into law the Cybercrime Prevention Act that prescribed a harsher penalty for online libel and allowed the Department of Justice take down websites deemed offensive.

“The bill seeks to expand the avenues of participation to the online community. It seeks to harness the productive and effective power of social media. It seeks to give a voice to netizens. People participation must go beyond physical borders,” Guingona said in the bill’s explanatory note.

“From Batanes to Sulu, people must be allowed to participate in the process of law-making. When people are allowed to participate, we have better laws,” he added.

The bill also mandates that pending bills approved on second reading, third reading and in the bicameral conference committee be made readily accessible online.

The recent enactment of the cyberlaw sent netizens poring over Senate journals posted online to establish who proposed the online libel provision, who were responsible for the punishments that are a degree harsher, who voted for the measure on third reading, among others.

One of those who voted for the bill, Senator Francis Escudero, admitted that the criminal provision on online libel slipped his attention. He has since filed a bill amending the measure to remove the provision.

A few other senators have filed amendatory provisions to the cyber law.

Even the law’s sponsor and one of the authors in the Senate, Sen. Edgardo Angara, has expressed reservation over its take down provision which allows the secretary of justice to deny access to websites found to be in violation of the cyber law.

Angara said such actions should be covered by a court order.

“While committee hearings are done offline and in the physical offices of the House of Representatives or the Senate, the public shall likewise be allowed to participate online and give comments on pending bills, at any time between the filing of the bill and the filing of the committee report,” reads Section 6 of Guingona’s bill.

Section 6 further says: “All comments sent through email and similar means using information and communications technology shall form part of the official and public records of Congress and must be considered in the drafting of the committee reports for pending bills.”

“This includes all comments sent as soon as the bill is filed, those sent prior to the first committee hearing on a bill, and those sent prior to the filing of the committee report,” it adds.

Section 7 provides for the continuing online public participation during the period of debates.

“The public must be allowed to continuously express their views on pending bills from the time the sponsorship speech is delivered until the time that the bill is approved and voted on Third Reading and until the report of the bicameral committee is approved by the House of Representatives or the Senate,” Section Seven says.

Section 8 provides for the pre-approval consultation at the level of the President.

“Before signing the bill into law, the President must allow the people to submit their comments online for at least five days. After the five-day period, the President must observe a three-day period or longer within which he can consider the views presented to him by the people,” Section Eight says.

“The periods in this provision can only be shortened for measures that have been certified as urgent by the President,” it says.

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  • Fergus Ducharme

    You are absolutely right, such a law assumes that there is someone at the other end of the system, in some government office and that they will be reading and responging in some way, other than an AUTORESPONDER which it appears have been discovered by Congressmen and Senators. Too bad, that’s as far as it goes…no other signs of life from them if you send them an e-mail…nothing, nada, zip!
    So why waste everyone’s time with a bill to “allow us” to participate in the decision making or policy making process using e-mail or social media – if there is someone at the other end, which is doubtful, they aren’t listening anyway!

  • http://jaoromero.com/ Jao Romero

    what does this bill do that we can’t do now? this just brings the people’s complaints online but does nothing about lawmakers ignoring them. it’s a palliative outlet, aimed to give an appearance that congress is listening but is actually not.

    what i want is a way for people to actually have a vote on bills pending in congress. in the past, holding referendums and plebiscites for each proposed bill were impractical because of the enormous costs it would entail. but we’re in the 21st century now, when online referendums and plebiscites can easily be done. 
    the job of lawmakers can be reduced to proposing bills, which would then be submitted to the people, and the people will have a say in the crafting of the bill by proposing amendments and other provisions they want. heck, we can use wikis to craft the bills before sending it for online voting.

    to access the system, we can use people’s TIN numbers as their log-in access. this is better than other national id system because of the following: 

    1. only tax paying people will be able to vote
    2. those who don’t pay taxes or are paying improper taxes will be forced to pay their taxes (if they want to vote) or else the system won’t allow them to vote
    3. only those who fund the government gets the right to have a say in governance
    4. solves the problem of people using multiple accounts to cheat the system. no need to block or track IPs. (ofc this means we have to clean up and improve the Tax Identification system as well as increase security for its database)

    all concerns regarding security of the voting system can be addressed by using high tech security systems like those used by banks. poll fraud can be guarded against by producing electronic and printable copies of the votes that can be traced.

    lawmakers are actually an endangered species. we don’t need them anymore. direct democracy is entirely possible now. some countries that are adopting a form of online direct democracy include the following: Switzerland, Sweden, UK,  and Finland.

  • kismaytami

    This is somewhat innovative. But I’m doubtful that lawmakers would listen. Most of the time when I send an email complaint to concerned government agencies regarding my concerns, I’m not getting any reply.

  • divictes

    Excellent. We could put technology to better use and tap on our supply of common sense to separate the “chaff from the grain”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/julian.lennon.31 Julian Lennon

    Cybercrime law, SIN tax law, and then this law? PRIORITIZE the FOI bill for goodness sake. FOI bill will definitely curb (hopefully would stop) corruption and give what many people are clamoring for transparency and sincerity in governance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/julian.lennon.31 Julian Lennon

    come to think of it.. many people are already aware of certain bills and are even out on the streets crying their hearts out in opposition to some of theses legislations, but do the congressmen really ever listen to them? This is one bill that is bound for the trash bin. 

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