Leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Thursday launched the eCongress—a digital platform that will strengthen and streamline the coordination and partnership between the chambers of Congress—at the National Museum.
Through a concurrent resolution, both chambers established the eCongress, describing it as an “integrated and secure digital legislative management system.”
“If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that we can and must take advantage of digital technologies to make our respective legislative proceedings much easier and much more efficient,” said Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.
“We had to transform ourselves. We cannot be a Congress that is trapped in amber, archaic, and irrelevant. We have to be dynamic, forward-looking, and forward-moving. That is the only way we can be genuinely responsive to our people’s needs,” Zubiri added.
The leaders of both chambers signed the memorandum of agreement for the management of the eCongress website.
The integrated digital legislative management system Congress is establishing will encourage citizen participation in lawmaking, Speaker Martin G. Romualdez said.
Thus said the Speaker in his message delivered by former President-turned Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of Pampanga.
The message was read during the launch of the digital platform attended by Zubiri, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, Senators Loren Legarda and Joseph Victor Ejercito, and Reps. Tobias Tiangco and Joboy Aquino, House Secretary General Reginald S. Velasco, and Senate Sec. Renato N. Bantug Jr.
Romualdez said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in his first State of the Nation Address last July, brought up the need to digitize, harmonize and share government records across departments and agencies.
“In response to this call, the House of Representatives, along with the Senate, now jointly establish and maintain an integrated and secure digital legislative management system for the Congress of the Philippines,” he said.
Romualdez said eCongress represents the “synergy” between the Senate and the House in their common aspiration to digitize their processes, services, and records, and share information.
He noted that such an effective communications system not only amplifies the capacity of government organizations, ensures greater transparency, and deters corruption but also serves as a mechanism for public information to promote citizen engagement in policymaking. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
“E-Congress will also provide updates on the status of bills, and resolutions and report legislative undertakings to inform the public and encourage citizen participation,” he said.
“It is our vision to make eCongress a key contributor in modernizing our core legislative processes towards a people-centered legislative governance and in enhancing our adherence to the democratic principles of transparency, accountability, and responsiveness,” Romualdez stressed.
The House leader recalled that President Marcos, armed with an overwhelming mandate from the electorate, had set out to steer the country from challenges and uncertainties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and external shocks towards economic recovery, sustained growth, and social transformation.
He said such challenges highlighted the role of Congress in making relevant, responsive, and timely legislation to meet the administration’s targets and “to raise the quality of public service, particularly lawmaking, representation and oversight functions of the legislative branch of government, ensuring that our laws consistently reflect our values, principles, and aspirations as Filipinos.”
“To carry out this crucial role, it is imperative that both houses of Congress exercise constant collaboration, coordination, and sharing of information towards people-centered legislative governance,” he said.
The Speaker said e-Congress would use information and communications technology and other digital means of facilitating the delivery of services.
Romualdez thanked Senate and House personnel involved in the collaborative eCongress project.
To ensure the project’s success, he said there would be continuous capacity building to enhance the digital skills of lawmakers, legislative staff, and other stakeholders.
A memorandum of agreement on the details of operating and maintaining the system was signed by Velasco and Bantug. A mock-up of the website was also presented during the event.
The eCongress is seen to make the passage of laws more efficient, and to make inter-chamber processes much swifter.
“That means, among other things, upholding virtual and eventually hybrid sessions and hearings authorized in the use of e-signatures for bills and committee reports and beefing up our efforts to reflect the movement of our legislative documents through our website in real-time,” said Zubiri in an interview after the launch.
“I mean, five years ago, would you ever think that we would have Zoom meetings and public hearings even in sessions on the plenary floor of the Congress and of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines?” he asked, describing these as “unimaginable and unheard.”