Politics

PH Congress Just Launched the Ultimate Crowdsourcing Initiative

Is this sincere youth-oriented democracy or just lazy lawmaking?
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Last Saturday, The House of Representatives announced its second annual Bill Drafting Contest with a poster on Facebook. The poster lists the mechanics of the contest: It's open to undergraduate students, who must form teams of three to represent their college or university. Contestants will then attend a two-part "Public Policy and Bill Drafting Seminar" to help them draft their entries. At stake is a chance to present in front of the House of Representatives, and of course, a cash prize.

Yes, it's a little like The Apprentice but with Filipino congressmen instead of a blond, overlarge Oompa Loompa. No, we're not making this up:

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Fine, maybe some of it is made up:

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The first Bill Drafting Contest began in July of 2017, as an initiative by the office of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Last October, the first championship was won by a team of University of San Carlos students, who drafted a bill to protect the whale sharks. (Other bills in the running included an act to establish the cap-and-trade system of dealing with pollution; and an act to declare the rights of children of assisted conception).

But now, as before, the Bill Drafting Contest has raised a lot of eyebrows and started some scuffles in the comments sections. The usual point of contention is essentially: Is this a new way for public servants to engage with their constituents in crowdsourcing era, or just some lazy lawmakers looking pass their work on to eager young students?

As you can imagine, things can get pretty heated:

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We'd argue that it's a matter of how they run this contest, and what they decide to do with the entries after. Given every benefit of the doubt, this contest can be a new way for government officials to reach out to young people and give them a proactive platform on which to voice their concerns.

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But one could also argue that there are more efficient and effective ways for our lawmakers to engage with their constituents, like public fora. If this contest isn't conducted in a way that would yield actionable results, then Congress would have better spent their time and our money by going out, engaging with students firsthand, figuring out the issues that concern them, and drafting bills based on those. 

Whichever way you feel about it, it seems fair to say that the Bill Writing Contest reveals new extremities in the age of social media crowdsourcing. If nothing else, it begins to raise the question: What happens when even the sacred responsibility of legislation can be kicked out to the public-at-large? While the House still says that this contest is an educational activity "designed to introduce the legislative process and policy-making to university-level students," they have also said in a Facebook comment that they "may consider opening contests for a wider audience in the future." And if that happens, it could open us up to some very strange suggestions, like:

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