As the information age has led to key advances in communication, participation through digital means must be empowered to foster better discourse on policy. Such approaches like crowdsourcing, will help the public to engage in formulating laws related to issues they care about.
Filipinos have become more engaged in political issues with the rise of social media platforms. In every controversial issue from same-sex marriage to the re-imposition of death penalty, netizens have used social media platforms as an avenue for more open discussions. With the increasing accessibility of technological devices like smartphones and laptops in the country, apps like Facebook and Twitter have become innovative gateways of political discourse.
With the advent of technology playing a major role in increasing political participation, it is now becoming necessary for governments to try new and innovative ways to encourage their citizens to share their views on various issues. One way of doing this is through crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing in simple terms, is the practice of obtaining ideas or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people from the online community. With this approach, the public can influence what laws are tackled by Congress. This allows ordinary citizens to play a role in shaping legislation even if they are not physically present at congressional proceedings.
Certain lawmakers and solons have pursued establishing a means for crowdsourcing legislation and executive rules and regulations since the beginning of the 17th Congress. Unfortunately, while legislation on crowdsourcing passed the House on third and final reading, it did not pass the Senate.
Despite this, House Committee on People’s Participation Chairperson, Hon. Florida T. Robes of San Jose del Monte City, has given some crowdsourcing advocates a glimmer of hope with the re-filing of a bill, which calls for establishing a framework in people’s participation through the usage of online platforms.
Robes’ House Bill No. 3236, filed on July 31, 2019, which aims to promote the practice of crowdsourcing as a way to let people give their respective comments online so legislators have a grasp on the people’s opinion on crucial issues in Filipino society. For Robes, there is no doubt that crowdsourcing in itself can be a powerful tool in enacting people-oriented laws.
“The evolution of information technology nowadays has played a major role for individuals or groups to air one’s sentiments, feelings, opinions, suggestions, and let the whole world of the same, so to speak”, said the congresswoman in her explanatory note. “It is my humble submission that the participation of the people in law-making can be maximized by taking advantage of this information technology advances by making and creating legal and acceptable means of making them participate by sharing one’s comments, sentiments, and/or opinions, with the end in view of formulating laws for the betterment of society”, added Robes.
Pertinent Features of the Bill
The pertinent features of the bill are:
Comparison with HB 8405
House Bill 3238’s goals has been in line with the previous bill filed by then-Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano during the 17th Congress, which also tackles crowdsourcing. Reading both bills, the Robes bill is more particular with the overall duration of people’s participation within the legislative process and emphasizes the importance of filtering well-versed crowdsourced input in aid of formulating valid positions for or against any proposed law. Other key points observed in comparing the two bills are:
Experiences with Crowdsourcing
Several associations have tried their hand in crowdsourcing, in order to expand public interest on issues that needs to be more addressed effectively. One of these is PUBLiCUS Asia Inc., which led efforts in cooperation with Tanggulang Pambansa on the People’s Draft, a crowd-sourced version of the proposed Federal Constitution. The draft was uploaded on Facebook and opened for comments and suggestions for one month. During that period, the team gathered and processed 100 comments from Filipino people in 28 provinces and cities across the country. Overseas Filipinos from as far away as Singapore, Australia, Spain, and even Denmark contributed.
Having experienced the huge impact crowdsourcing can have in tapping into the sentiments of the people for structural change, PUBLiCUS provided its insights on effectively crowdsourcing legislation and government policies to the House Committee on People’s Participation during the 17th Congress.
The effectivity and success the People’s Draft has shown that crowdsourcing is an effective way of fostering participatory governance and more inclusive legislation. By letting Filipino citizens from all across the world give insights on legislation via online and mobile platforms, Congress will be able to pass laws that are truly responsive to the needs and sentiments of their constituents. It only remains to be seen whether the 18th Congress will be able to pass the Crowdsourcing Act on time and submit it to the President for his signature.
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