“Wasting taxpayer money” is a nuanced expression. UP students like myself who overstayed their welcome in the premier state university of the country “waste taxpayer money.” You can invent a problem out of “traffic congestion” and create a flyover to “address the issue.” You can use surplus funds from the previous fiscal year to buy cars “for official purposes.” You can spread cash gifts from the public coffers and pass them off as “incentives.” As you can see, “wasting taxpayer money,” which is a form of “corruption,” can mean so many things.
Batasan is undergoing renovations: as it seems, they have (literally) elevated the House Floor to allow for an “electronic voting system.” At the mere push of a button, a member of the House can vote for a resolution or address a motion. This is a P15-million project that, as with everything that suits the prefix “i,” will “revolutionize” Philippine parliamentary procedures. And you have Joker Arroyo supporting it.
On the upside, making Congress “high-tech” would give added incentives to frequent absentees to attend House deliberations because they have a voting system reminiscent of an iPod. Because voting is speeded up, we who follow Filipino politics no longer have to stand for privilege speeches explaining votes sourced from “Land of Bondage” by Raul Manglapus. I don’t have to be worried about the voting system being hacked: we are being run by a government that has no idea of what the Internet is (the ZTE hearings) and are still stuck in the age of vinyl records (when some Congressman asked for a “recording of the recording” in the “Hello Garci” hearing). I’m also thinking about gambling on Congress votes: with our Representatives given a yes/no choice, this is a golden opportunity to play political jueteng.
Yet it also begs some questions. Fifteen million pesos for speeding up voting? There are a lot of empty chairs in Batasan when the issue does not involve budget allocations. Fifteen million pesos can make for the construction of an entire school in remote rural areas. Fifteen million pesos can make for a decent bribe, even. Why waste it on automating Congressional proceedings that inevitably end up in walkouts that involve throwing paper?
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the spirit of automating voting procedures in Congress: in fact, it is important that our antiquated electoral system – be it in Congress or in elections – be improved to address the need for prompt governance. But after looking at 2,283 House Bills filed by the 14th Congress, I’m not so sure.
Of course, reading 2,283 Bills is silly, and I just went through about 600 before I gave up. However, I found some “interesting” laws that would make for a good argument for automating Congress voting. Allow me to indulge in some copy-pasted capitalization:
- House Bill 00039, AN ACT CREATING THE POSITION OF BARANGAY POPULATION WORKER, GRANTING BENEFITS THERETO, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE THE “LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991,” AS AMENDED, AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR
- House Bill 00048, AN ACT RENAMING KAPITAN RAMON NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL IN BARANGAY KAPITAN RAMON IN THE CITY OF SILAY, PROVINCE OF NEGROS OCCIDENTAL TO DON FELIX T. LACSON MEMORIAL NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL
- House Bill 00136, AN ACT INSTITUTING REFORMS IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM BY ENHANCING DNA TECHNOLOGY ANALYSIS AS A POTENT INVESTIGATIVE TOOL, CREATING THE DNA ADVISORY BOARD UNDER THE NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
- House Bill 00166, AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE RULES FOR A COMPETITIVELY NEUTRAL GOVERNMENT, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
- House Bill 00175, AN ACT DECLARING MAY 7 OF EVERY YEAR AS ‘HEALTH WORKERS’ DAY’
- House Bill 00206, AN ACT DECLARING SEPTEMBER 29 OF EVERY YEAR AS A SPECIAL NONWORKING PUBLIC HOLIDAY IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF BALILIHAN, PROVINCE OF BOHOL
- House Bill 00208, AN ACT CONVERTING THE CONGRESSMAN PABLO MALASARTE MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL IN BARANGAY CABAD, MUNICIPALITY OF BALILIHAN, PROVINCE OF BOHOL INTO A NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL TO BE KNOWN AS THE CONGRESSMAN PABLO MALASARTE NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR
- House Bill 00338, AN ACT DECLARING THE PROVINCE OF CAVITE AS THE HISTORICAL CAPITAL OF THE PHILIPPINES
- House Bill 00413, AN ACT AMENDING THE SUBDIVISION AND CONDOMINIUM BUYERS’ PROTECTIVE DECREE
- House Bill 00601, AN ACT DECLARING AUGUST 10 OF EVERY YEAR A SPECIAL NON-WORKING HOLIDAY IN SAN JOSE CITY, PROVINCE OF NUEVA ECIJA
After going through re-establishing roads as national roads and non-working holidays for different provinces, I figured that we really need to automate. After all, this is just a small sample of the many laws that would require the general idea of “electronic voting.”
Yup, the iCongress. Did I mention that it holds a million songs and comes with a touch-screen?