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Crowdsourced Internet Freedom Bill a First for Filipino Lawmakers

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, July 31 2013

Philippine Congress (Wikipedia)

Only a week into a new congressional term, lawmakers in the Philippines have introduced bills that would repeal overreaching anti-cybercrime laws and put in place protections for Internet users. The bill, known as The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, was actually the product of a spontaneous crowdsourced initiative led by six connected and tech-savvy self-identified “tweeps.” It could be the first crowdsourced proposal to be made into a Philippine law.

Their full story is recounted by one of the leaders, @jesterinexile, on TheProPinoy Project website. It began with a conversation on Twitter about their shared outrage over a proposed anti-cybercrime law. In @jesterinexile's words:

...the tweeps decided that the time had come to find a means to overturn the status quo. The status quo, in their belief, was the lack of understanding of government in general and legislators in particular of information and communications technology and the Internet, and that the crafting of laws governing their areas of interest could not be allowed to be shoddy work by the technologically semi-illiterate. It was up to these tweeps to craft something that made sense, and then present it to legislators for their consideration.

They solicited input on a Facebook page dedicated to the project, but it was slow going until President Aquino signed the anti-cybercrime bill into law. The online community felt betrayed by their president, and anger and frustrated spurred them to act faster. One of the tweeps managed to set up a meeting with Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who would become a champion of the proposed law.

Defensor-Santiago filed the Internet Freedom bill on July 3. In a press release from the Philippines government, she called it her new pet bill. (The surprisingly descriptive press release calls the senator feisty.)

In additional to protecting constitutional rights on the Internet, the proposed law clearly defines cybercrimes. One of the problems identified in the 2012 Cybercrime Prevention Law was sloppy writing with too-broad definitions of cybercrimes that put Internet users' rights at risk.

Both tweep @jesterinexile and Senator Defensor-Santiago continue to call for additional input and support from Filipinos.

“The story is far from over,” writes @jesterinexile:

As this is being written, efforts are underway to promote citizen participation in this bill. Even with the support of an eminent constitutionalist, international law expert, and civil rights advocate that is Senator Santiago, there remains the need for broader participation of ordinary citizens in the legislative process. While the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom could very well be the first crowdsourced piece of legislation in the Philippine Senate (or for that matter, of the entire Philippine legislature), there is no substitute for real work done by real people in the real world.

He concludes by listing three things interested parties can do to contribute, ending his story with “Get some skin in this game – it's for the country.”

"I call on all our young people to voice their support for this bill through social media,” Senator Defensor-Santiago said in the government press release. “You are our new opinion-leaders.”

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.