MANILA, SEPTEMBER 8, 2008 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - Feel the need to expand your online social network? How about adding your congressman to your chat list?

The House leadership is expanding its Internet-based social network and is engaging in “full information communication technology” so that its 240 members can chat with their constituents, or those who have queries about their districts.

Since there’s no stopping or ignoring technology, congressmen – especially aging politicos – would have to work on their Internet skills and learn that smiles are not just worn on faces but also typed as :-) and “cyber hugs” replace traditional handshakes.

Aside from electronic voting, which is still ongoing, Speaker Prospero Nograles has revealed that they also intend to expand the services of the House of Representatives’ website to “foster intra- and inter-connectivity” both in and out of the halls of Congress.

“Before the year ends, we would have expanded the capacity of our website to provide each congressman and each committee with an interactive portal so that the public can engage our members and our committees in online dialogues,” he told the Manila Overseas Press Club.

Not that “ROFL,” chat lingo that means “rolling on the floor laughing,” might soon be changed to ROHFL (rolling on the House floor laughing), this is serious stuff – part of the chamber’s “transparency program” to make the public aware of what their representatives are doing.

The chamber, under Nograles’ leadership, will also venture into making public all documents that every interested constituent needs.

“Our congressional journals and records and all laws and resolutions passed by the House and the Senate will also be available to the public with a click of a button,” the Davao City congressman said.

“What bills are in the agenda, the full texts of these bills, committee and plenary proceedings, and even the record of attendance of members are now available in our website,” Nograles added.

At present, the House website has a so-called “pork window” where details of the P70-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (popularly known as pork barrel) of each congressman are posted.

“The PDAF window is intended to help our people check on the projects listed therein by their own representatives, so that they can account for the use of the pork barrel funds in their districts,” said Nograles.

“This fulfills our commitment to ensure full transparency and accountability in the allocation and use of pork barrel in our districts,” he said.

Pork barrel has always been associated with controversy and seen as the source of corruption among lawmakers.

Next in the pipeline for the House is television coverage of what is going on in the chamber, both in committee hearings and in the plenary, where the most controversial measures are debated on by administration and opposition lawmakers.

“Before the year ends, we shall broadcast live coverage of our activities in plenary. Through media, our people can virtually be brought into the committees and in plenary sessions to witness for themselves how their representatives perform their duties,” Nograles said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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