, July 19, 2024

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Imagine If Government Actually Listened to the People

  •   5 min reads
Imagine If Government Actually Listened to the People
"HIS MASTER'S VOICE was coined in the late 1890s from the title of a painting by English artist Francis Barraud, which depicted a dog named Nipper listening to a wind-up disc gramophone and tilting his head." Wikipedia | His Master's Voice (1898) by Francis Barraud
By Vincent R. Pozon

"You Asked for It"

People might remember the line as half of a previous creative expression ("slogan" to most of you) of Toyota. I remember older, from the fifties, from the early days of television. It was a human interest program that promised to deliver what the viewers wanted to see.

This was a much-awaited treat: everyday, I would ensconce myself in the Studebaker rear seat repurposed as a sofa to watch a program where people submitted their requests, eagerly awaiting the response of "you asked for it."

They would go the gamut, because its programming was dictated by the audience. A sharp memory is the episode caused by a viewer wanting to see a plane land on a car (yes, they did it, yes, it can be done). Many of the stunts were televised live, I was to learn later, which made some stunts dangerous. Call it a precursor of today's talent contests. Sometimes they went sober and nourishing. While most of the time they featured several requests in one episode, I remember one had a thorough exposition on jazz. 

"THE LONGEST-RUNNING REALITY TV PROGRAM in history. Every You Asked For It segment was filmed at the request of a viewer, a uniquely interactive approach to documentary filmmaking that captured some of the most incredible moments ever seen on screen."

"Eh Kung..." 

Now imagine this: We have the technology to ask people what they want. The NTC has been bombarding our phones with warnings. There are cellphones that are affordable, and there are now more cellphones than people. Sim cards are now registered. If we were to truly associate each cell phone with an individual, similar to how Social Security numbers or driving licenses are linked, and if we could ensure security against hacking, we could ask people for their preferences on issues important to them.

We ask for directions, or indications which policy makers could consider and incorporate into laws, or even into the constitution. Imagine the ease, the swiftness with which we could gauge public opinion or voter sentiment.

This isn't dipstick research

This is not a survey; this is the voice of the people. The results of the consultation can be formally presented in any house committee deciding on a matter. After deliberations with experts, the committee presents its position to the people.

Let's call it Vox Populi Representation. Being a truly representative body, it must have the respect of congress, its opinion must be accorded a proper listening.

And government must respond with, "you asked for it". And if it sees reason not to do so, it must be obligated to try to convince the Vox Populi Representatives.

Staggered implementation

A first phase might involve citizen panels. It's presented and packaged as consultation, with chosen individuals instead of the entire electorate. The government monitors changes in public acceptance of any measure, for, after all, even the rate of change of sentiment alone holds value for policymakers.

Say you need to know if Metro Manila should no longer be a collection of cities and towns but one local government unit with one governor, since one city's traffic is the next city's headache, and that goes with flooding and pollution and garbage, and peace and order. 

Consult the people. 

How should we treat e-bikes, as motor vehicles or bicycles? Is the Segway an enabled pedestrian and therefore allowed on sidewalks and in malls? 


Should we allow assisted deaths? Do we tax churches? Should government support private schools or should it take on education as a responsibility of government?

Consult. And periodically. Because opinions change.

We could ask if they'd prefer that government allow use of medical marijuana, or if they'd like divorce legalized.

If congress represents the people, then they must listen to Vox Populi. Actually we'll need less representing when the people can tell you what they want. In seconds.

Down the road...

In the future, elections can be done via the system. The entire apparatus – and cost – for the holding and managing of elections would be minimal. 

And it has been done, successfully. Repeatedly. 

"Estonia has allowed its citizens to vote online for national, local and European elections since 2005. Citizens can vote from anywhere – their homes, offices, or even while they are on vacation – using any of their personal devices: smartphones, laptops, tablets," says Innovatrics, a provider of biometric solutions.

Vote-buying – Gone

There are distinct advantages to voting by cellphone. A major fix is that vote-buying is immediately made vain and ineffective. "People who may have been biased, intimidated or forced in their vote can access the system again at a later stage and cast their actual vote"... the last vote being the only one that counts."

This feature, unfortunately, means it will never pass our congress. Removing the power to influence elections from people in power will be a insurmountable hurdle.

Directly gauging public opinion by cellphone can be a reality here and now; electing leaders though might take a while, needing political will from public servants concerned with building legacies rather than dynasties.

Vincent R. Pozon

After a year of college, Koyang entered advertising, and there he stayed for more than half a century, in various agencies, multinational and local. He is known for aberrant strategic successes (e.g., Clusivol’s ‘Bawal Magkasakit’, Promil’s ‘The Gifted Child’, RiteMED’s ‘May RiteMED ba nito?', VP Binay's 'Ganito Kami sa Makati', JV Ejercito's 'The Good One'). He is chairman of Estima, an ad agency dedicated to helping local industrialists, causes and candidates. He is co-founder and counselor for advertising, public relations, and crisis management of Caucus, Inc., a multi-discipline consultancy firm. He can be reached through vpozon@me.com.

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