Sunday, September 26, 2010

An open letter regarding the proposal to live stream the Senate--and my response

This morning I found a blog post by a blogger and student named Julius Rocas on Senate Resolution No. 53, a resolution I filed calling for the live streaming of Senate proceedings. I would like to share with you his post and my response. Feel free to comment and send in your thoughts.


His open letter, which I found on

Dear Honorable Senator Pangilinan,

Greetings of joy!

First of all, I would like to applaud you in filing and pushing for Senate Resolution No 53 which calls for “the live streaming of Senate proceedings in the plenary as well as hearings and meetings of the Senate committees to provide accurate information in real time to the public.”

I fully support you in this endeavor of better informing the Filipino public about matters that greatly concern them, the legislative process and how Senators go about their duties as legislators of our republic.

Indeed, the Filipino people would be better served if they are engaged and well informed about how the government, particularly the Legislative department works.

I also agree that not all Filipinos have the time and means to visit the Senate and watch the proceedings live in Manila. However, it is with due respect that I disagree with the method you’ve identified in fulfilling this noble intention, the live streaming of Senate proceedings via the Internet.

Please, good Senator, consider the following questions:

* How many Filipinos have access to hi-speed internet which is needed to have a decent live streaming experience? * How many can afford to have hi-speed internet installed in their household, which at average costs Php1,000 to Php2,000 per month, just to have a decent live streaming experience at the comfort of their homes? * If the Internet would be the only means of watching the live proceedings of the Senate without actually going to the session hall, then wouldn’t you agree that such would make access to public information of public concern prohibitive, exclusive and expensive?

I am confident that this is not what you have intended in filing Resolution No 53.

That is why, good Senator, that I humbly submit an alternative that will serve your noble intentions of engaging and informing the public about the inner workings of the Senate and the legislative process.

The government could take one of the three television networks it owns and devote it to coverage of the proceedings of both Houses of Congress – Senate and House of Representatives. To add a layer of transparency and avoid government censorship of some sort, turn over its management to the KBP or a non-profit media organization made up of the current TV networks.

This would be our own C-SPAN, which is the cable channel dedicated to covering both houses of the US Congress as they go about their jobs as legislators.

This channel should be available for free on broadcast television and not just in cable, because like internet access, the majority of Filipinos don’t have cable TV. Because one thing is certain, almost every household in the country has a TV set. Even in transport terminals, inside buses, barber and beauty shops, even in your neighborhood sari-sari store, a TV set can be found.

It’s free, it’s accessible to every Filipino and this would definitely spark interest about how our government works, and how our legislators do their job. No need to worry about live streaming setups, operating costs and equipment, bandwidth issues etc. because these really aren’t the concern nor the intention of Senate Resolution No 53, it is about being transparent about how government works and engaging the body politic in the process.

I pray that you would consider the things I’ve mentioned in this letter and study them, so that genuine benefit would be gained by the Filipino people from your Resolution No. 53 and if it really succeeds, we would all be grateful to you good Senator, the one who brought the public and the legislative department much more closer for a better and healthier democracy. For a brighter and prosperous country.

May the Good Lord guide and bless you and your work always.

With you in service to our country,

Julius Rocas

Blogger and student

Cavite, Philippines


My response

Dear Julius,

First of all, thank you for posting your open letter regarding Resolution No. 53, the proposal to live stream Senate proceedings. It is always affirming to see young people such as yourself involving themselves in the issues of the day. That is exactly the reason why we are pushing for greater transparency within our chamber--so that more youth like you will know the issues, respond to these issues, and be part of collective problem-solving.

In line with this, I will have to agree with you that live streaming Senate proceedings, no matter how comprehensive, is still not the ultimate solution that we seek in promoting greater transparency in governance. You were correct in point out that, compared to televisions, computer and Internet penetration has not yet reached a critical mass, so to speak. Your suggestion to then consider a Filipino version of C-SPAN, aired over one of the government television stations, definitely holds merit and will be considered in our proposals to the national government.

However, I hope you do understand that the need for greater public information is already so great and long-overdue that we need to find good short-term solutions while working on the wider infrastructure needed to implement in-depth coverage of more government proceedings (hopefully not just those of the Senate). Live streaming technology is very feasible, relatively inexpensive, and, more importantly, easy to implement almost immediately. For us, this is just a "baby step" toward increasing transparency in governance, but it is a necessary first step. As I had told my colleagues during the first public hearing on the matter, "Baby steps are better than no steps at all."

With that, rest assured that we will be communicating your suggestion and those of other like-minded Netizens into our final proposal. We will look into all the possible options for delivering public information more completely and more efficiently. More importantly, we will continue engaging more youth like you so that issues can be dissected more constructively and solutions be developed in a more collaborative environment.

Again, I thank you for posting your letter on your blog. I look forward to meeting you, whether online or on the ground.

Yours truly,

Kiko Pangilinan