Well, well. Lookit. The official government website has gone and evolved into something that looks and feels entirely different; something that reflects the new media background of at least two of the Communication Group’s bosses – mlq3 and ricky carandang.
Traditionally, the OG was used to publish new laws. The new OG, on the other hand, looks poised to do more than just be the official publisher of new laws.
Normally, I’d be ecstatic. Heck, I’ve been trying to re-format my agency’s website for years. However, there are a couple of reasons I am leery of this change. First, the apparent content of this new site doesn’t seem to fit the label its been given; and second, the URL also doesn’t fit the apparent content.
Call me old fashioned but look at the menu.
It doesn’t even have a heading for Legislation.
Commonwealth Act 638 envisioned the OG as a means of publishing, among other things, laws enacted by Congress. Or at least, that’s what we were taught in law school. I remember when I was working on the Law Review, we would go to the Office of the President or the National Library, following up on our OG subscriptions, only to be told that the OG hadn’t been printed yet. So, we had to go to the Supreme Court library for advance copies of new legislation.
Obviously, an OG published on-line would be welcomed by law review editors all over the country, but what will they do with an OG that doesn’t publish new legislation? Seriously, and leaving the law review editors aside for a moment, it is true that publication in the OG isn’t required for a law to take effect. On the other hand, an up-to-date and reliable OG would be a boon to everyone – whether lawyers or not – because it will effectively create a national database of laws and Supreme Court decisions. Remember that if the OG is to be published at all, it should, as expressly ordered by CA No. 638, publish:
(1) legislative acts and resolutions of a public nature of the Congress of the Philippines; (2)all executive and administrative orders and proclamations, except such as have no generalapplicability; (3) decisions or abstracts of decisions of the Supreme Court and the Courtof Appeals as may be deemed by said courts of sufficient importance to be so published;(4) such documents or classes of documents as may be required so to be published bylaw; and (5) such documents or classes of documents as the President of the Philippinesshall determine from time to time to have general applicability and legal effect, or which he may authorize so to be published.
We don’t have that sort of thing yet. And with the right editorial staff, this massive on-line compendium of laws could even be annotated and made searchable by category. That would be like making Lex Libris searches freely available to the public! Unfortunately, as it stands, this website seems less interested in creating a free, updated, on-line library of laws than it is in becoming, as the respected Ellen Tordesillas described it: the “Office of the President website.” In which case, it should not be called the OG. In fact, it hews very closely to the White House website in the nature of its content, and most likely in its objectives.
Of course, we don’t know exactly what those objectives are. Hopefully, that menu will have some items added to it soon. That way, we can have a clearer picture of just how useful this new site will be to the Filipino people.
And speaking of usefulness, there’s this issue with the URL. Try to recall the old www.gov.ph. It wasn’t much to look at, but it had loads of information about the whole government. I mean, sure, it had a lot of omissions and dead links, but the thing did try to be a true information portal.
Continuing with the comparison with the US, gov.ph was pretty much like the US government’s portal. It was where you went to if you needed a remedial lesson in how government was organized. It provided the URLs of those agencies that had websites from which you could, in turn, find out how to engage government and avail of its services. It even had a forum where you could call people midgets. In other words, it provided both a handle on government AND a jumping off point for an on-line exploration of government. The page appearing at the gov.ph address now does nothing of the sort.
With all due respect, while there is great interest in the President’s activities – as well as his pictures – a website that helps people engage government would be more appropriate at the .gov.ph web address. After all, couldn’t the Office of the President just as easily get it’s own TLDs? Get a separate URL for the Official Gazette – a move which many many people would applaud; get a separate URL for the Office of the President; and then build a kick-ass, world-class, portal over at www.gov.ph where you can have buttons leading you to both the OP and the OG.