Monday, May 7, 2007

Talk to your legislators

A big mistake among cyberlegislation advocates is that they keep complaining on the lack of law and even blame government and legislative branch for failure to enact one. If you believe in a proposed law's importance, then you should be willing to take action and do the necessary work to get it passed.

I spent a big part of 1998 to 2000 to lobby for the passage of the Y2K Law and an E-Commerce Law legislation in the Philippines. Prior to doing that part, I was attending an Internet Commerce Expo forum in 1997 where former Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary William Padolina was the primary resource person. A participant from the audience asked, during the question and answer portion, what is the DOST doing to ensure the passage of an e-commerce legislation so that entrepreneurs and businesses can accept payment online.

I wont forget Padolina's answer at that time where he simply said, "You can't expect the DOST Secretary to do everything for you. If it is important for you, then you should go out there and talk to your legislators, lobbying its importance. Else, you'll get what you deserve." That I took seriously then.

Instead of asking all legislators, effort was first spent on:
  • The committee where this proposed legislation will fall under. Time was consumed talking to the secretariat, legal team, and legislative sponsors (especially if a resolution or draft bill was already filed before). Committee heads where this bill will fall under and push for its for calendar hearing prioritization.
  • Senate President, House Speaker, Majority and Minority floor leaders are also approached to support the law's and have it included on target legislations to be passed for the year.
  • Heads of government agencies who will benefit or tasked as implementer are asked for their support too.
From there, quality contacts are progressively built. Time must be spent on continuously updating legislative and support base stakeholders through seminars, research/technology briefings, latest developments, and meetings. In one of my briefings, I remember presenting to key legislators on how many countries have passed similar legislation, programs, and investments made just to send warning signals on how left behind we are, putting a great number of people at a disadvantage.

Of course, it worked!

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