People’s POWER online
By Gina Mission

inally, People’s POWER is online.

___The People’s Political Website on Elections and Electoral Reforms, or People’s POWER, formally invaded cyberspace today, in what its organizers call the "ultimate form of empowerment." The initiative, participated in by 12 civil society organizations (CSOs) involved in local electoral reform, takes electoral vigilance to a new and effective medium, the Internet.

___Aiming to be the ultimate venue for information exchange, education, and advocacy of electoral issues in the Internet, People POWER is accessible in the Web through

___The splash page, which shows a man holding up a ballot box with people in the background, "pictures present electoral realities in the country," according to Jose Luis Gascon, former sectoral representative to Congress and member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, who represented the National Institute for Policy Studies. That is to say, not quite ideal.

___Comprehensive and user-friendly, the homepage contains links to sections such as "RP Elections," "Statistics and Demographics," "Issues and Advocacy," "Resources," "Legal and Policy Framework," and "The Comelec."

___The "RP Elections" section contains basic data and information about the Philippine political and electoral system, which seeks to provide the basic context for electoral reform advocacy. This section, said Gascon, is especially created for non-Filipino Internet readers who are not familiar with Philippine elections, practices, and taboos.

___The "Comelec" section focuses on the Commission on Elections, the independent constitutional body tasked with supervising all electoral exercises in the Philippines. This section provides a comprehensive coverage of the Comelec, including its top officials, its legal framework, action plans, and election-related cases.

___"Legal and Policy Framework," on the other hand, contains a survey of important laws, decisions by the courts and quasi-judicial bodies, and other policy instruments which affect Philippine elections.

___"Statistics and Demographics" features important election-related statistics and demographic trends, which invite more rigorous assessment.

___The section on "Issues and Advocacy" embodies the "convergence of civil society organizations involved in Electoral Reform (ER) Advocacy, as it will contain related issues while presenting perspectives and opinions via statements, policy positions, proposals and important news and features."

___"Resources" lists various resources for electoral reform advocates such as books, CD-ROMs, videos and other educational materials, contact lists and directories, and other online links to other sites.

___People’s POWER is the fourth community site hosted by CodeWAN, or Countrywide Development Wide Area Network. It is made possible through the financial assistance of the PLDT Foundation. CodeWAN is a communications network dedicated to, among other things, the hosting of sectoral and issue-based community websites. The first of its kind in Asia, CodeWAN empowers civil society organizations in their continuing crusade for social, economic and political development by providing a venue and communication tools for their activities.

___One reason for the dichotomy between the "haves" and the "have-nots," in Philippine society, said CodeWAN Executive Director Rafael Lopa, is the latter’s lack of access to information. CodeWAN tries to break this trend by democratizing access to information technology, and making this information available to the greater majority through its partnership with radio stations nationwide.

___The other three sectoral communities already hosted by CodeWAN include

___The audience at the launch observed that unlike the other three websites, People’s POWER is has a non-Filipino name. Its organizers explained that the difference in name actually gives it a more serious face, which is exactly what they want to communicate to the large majority of Internet readers. "Philippine elections do have serious problems," conceded Tess Baltazar, coordinator of the party list group Kumare-Kumpare.

___Keynote speaker Harriet Demetriou, Comelec Chair, acknowledged the usefulness of the People’s POWER website in the electoral reforms that she wants to accomplish at the poll body. "The process of modernizing our election system entails a lot of hard work and cooperation. We need to establish a network of allies from both the government and private sectors. The People’s POWER website, envisioned to promote and advocate for electoral reforms, will surely complement our efforts to modernize," Demetriou said.

___Modernizing the Comelec, she quickly clarified, is not just modernization for its own sake. "We will not adopt any technology unless it corresponds to our people’s social and cultural experiences," Demetriou said. What the agency will do under her leadership, she continued, is opt for the kind of applicable technology that is "efficient, yet cost-effective."

___In his speech, Rep. Augusto Syjuco Jr., Chair of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, acknowledged that "there is still a long way to go in as far as electoral reform is concerned."

___Even Haydee Yorac, a former Comelec member who represented civil society during the launch, observed some kind of a "paradox," an "irony," in the way the splash page is designed. "It’s quite ironic to use post-modern technology, as embodied in the site, when we operate in a pre-historic, even primitive electoral system," Yorac quipped. No website of whatever kind, she stressed, could ever ensure electoral reforms, especially in the Philippines.

___"Even as we are happy with this creation, we should not be deceived into believing that we have reached the promised land of electoral reforms," Yorac warned. Above all, she added, it is the Comelec that determines whether or not we will have free, fair, and honest elections.

___But Yorac admitted that the People’s POWER website is a milestone towards the elusive clean and honest elections.

CyberDyaryo | 1999.07.22