Senator: Netizens’ insight needed in crafting laws-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Sunday, October 14, 2012
TAKING off from the early victory in the recent issuance of a 120-day temporary restraining order (TRO) on the anti-cybercrime law, Senator Teofisto Guingona III again sought the help of Internet users for his Crowdsourcing bill.
Guingona, the only senator who voted in plenary against the passage of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, said he is now proposing a bill to encourage transparency, people participation, and accountability in the law making process.
The senator said lobbyists and those wanting to express their stand on certain legislations may do so online without the expense of joining public consultations in Manila that entails extra costs for travel and transportation expenses.
With more than 32 million Filipinos already using and gaining access to the Internet, Guingona said the stand of netizens on certain legislations may be harnessed with the use of technology and can be made parallel with public consultations conducted by lawmakers for those without access to the Internet.
Lawyer Golda Benjamin of the office of Senator Guingona pointed out the problem with lawmaking in the country is it has become more legalese rather than informative, which defies the purpose of legislation for the people to understand certain laws.
Guingona, meanwhile, stressed his proposed bill is a work in progress drafted and amended simultaneously by incorporating inputs from netizens and through public consultation.
Through crowdsourcing, the legislator said all pending bills and committee reports must be made available online within three days after they are filed, together with an invitation made available online for any committee hearing three days before the hearing date.
He said the bill will usher in a more democratic way the legislation process by establishing online mechanisms to enable and empower Filipinos to participate in lawmaking maintaining that participative governance goes beyond borders.
“By giving the public online access to the entire lawmaking process, each of the senators and members of the House of Representatives are now fully accountable to the people when they vote for or against any piece of legislation,” he said.
He admitted that most laws in the Senate become either diluted or over-embellished that they distort the essence of the law. He said, though, that most senators have been coming up with insertions or either acting as co-authors of the bill which later on results in a bill veering away from its initial purpose.
He said the Crowdsourcing bill will give the people access to these legislations and point out these problematic provisions similar to the clamor that swept the Philippine social media scene when the anti-cybercrime law was passed.
However, he must agree that the anti-cybercrime law also has legitimate solutions to online concerns such as hacking, identity theft and cybersex.
But Guingona said other provisions of the law remain dubious like the provision on cyberlibel, which sets a higher penalty than what was prescribed by the Revised Penal Code.
The senator said he agrees with earlier statements made by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on the total scrapping of the law and coming up with another one.
“Let’s start with a clean sheet of paper. There are still many online concerns such as cyberbullying and responsible blogging that can be included in the bill or be made into a separate law,” he said.
Vincent Tabor, of the Cordillera Bloggers, supported the stand of Guingona, stressing they have joined together as a group also to profess responsible blogging, self-regulation and policing their own ranks from malicious and below the belt posts in the internet.
Tabor said despite issues on Internet security and crimes, he emphasized their right as bloggers to express their views of their community in social media an in their blogs and websites.
The senator, meanwhile, added the TRO of the Supreme Court is the first victory to defend freedom and right to expression.
“For a court to issue a TRO unanimously is a strong message of its belief that the dangers and fears of the people are real and must be addressed. With this TRO, the tyrannical powers granted by the law are effectively clipped. However, the fight is not over,” he said.
“We must escalate our vigilance, keep the fire burning, and continue the fight for our fundamental rights. The fight of the people, on the streets and online, must continue,” he added.
The senator conducted a forum on the anti-cybercrime law last October 12. It was attended by members of Baguio media, Cordillera bloggers and students of the University of the Philippines-Baguio.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 15, 2012.