Technically, all we can expect from our politicians is that they can read
“I’m not tech-savvy,” Senator Loren Legarda told Tourism Undersecretary Vicente Romano III at a Senate hearing for the Department of Tourism’s budget for 2011. Had she stopped there, she would have been quite right.
But she then scolded Romano for planning to spend about 100 million pesos on an online campaign to promote Philippine tourism and on the Search Engine Optimization magic that would help make it show up on web searches.
She said that it was too expensive for something so simple. SEO, she said, was something that could be done in a day.
Besides, she said when told that Singapore spent the equivalent of 180 million pesos on its online campaign, we don’t need it.
“Singapore has to spend 180 million because it has nothing to show,” she said before rattling off a list of Philippine beaches and tourist destinations.
Romano, it turns out, is actually quite tech savvy. He has been in IT for more than two decades and ran a successful new media campaign that helped President Benigno Aquino III win in the May elections.
He said that optimization is “not that simple” and could take more than a year to show results.
Legarda cannot be blamed for thinking SEO is just a matter of HTML coding on notepad. After all, she has so many things on her plate. She is an environmentalist, a women’s advocate, and a legislator.
It’s unfair to expect her to always know of what she speaks. Or at all, actually.
With literacy the main criterion to run for office in popular elections, there is no guarantee that you will have a government of the best and the brightest.
On the main, at least in the Senate, the mix tends towards brilliance. Senator Edgardo Angara, for example, is knowledgable to the point of tedium (if only because it takes a special mind to appreciate science and technology).
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago makes her enemies quail at her mastery of jurisprudence, rhetoric, and finely-focused rage.
And Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is so brilliant that even when he admits to not knowing enough about an issue to make any comment, it feels like a Socratic dialogue.
There are, of course, senators who prefer a more folksy approach to legislation, basing their positions on issues on childhood experiences and personal observations. And there is nothing wrong with that either.
Often, when faced with a complex issue, legislators promise to vote according to their conscience. It is unfair to expect that conscience to always be an informed one.