The Fate of the Freedom of Information Bill.

Posted on November 17, 2012

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Transparency. That is one of the promises of our President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. In accordance to the “Daang Matuwid”, a careful monitoring of our government officials will hopefully put Philippine government towards the proverbial straight road. The Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill gives every Filipino citizen the right to weed out cheating politicians, or even cheating neighbors. The FOI Bill will be incredibly useful for journalists in need of substantial sources to back up the truth that needs to be said. Will this be good for us? Definitely. Will this be bad for us? Maybe. In today’s Information Era, the Facebook Age,  almost anyone has the ability to root out the tiniest detail about someone. One can only imagine the ways on how society will utilize this right to free information.

The FOI Bill concerns the right of every Filipino citizen to gain access to information. “It defines which information is exempted from release to the public, and states who determines documents are exempt (President, head of agencies).”

The Official Gazette of the Philippines defines which information will be made available: “All information pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as government research data used as a basis for policy development, regardless of their physical form or format.”

With regards to a citizen’s right to privacy and certain information to be kept Secret, there are some exceptions.

The FOI will give the people access to documents such as a government official’s SALNs and other documents which will put the government under the watchful eye of the Filipino citizen.

TV5’s InterAksyon traces the history of the Freedom of Information Act. On November 23, 2010, the first hearing on the FOI Act was conducted. The Malacañang’s draft of the FOI Bill was finished on June 13, 2011. The final version of the bill was approved on January 2012. On February, the FOI was stalled in the House of Representatives because of certain disagreements with the revision.  On September, the Cybercrime Prevention Act was approved. The FOI Act was still pending.  November 13 was the scheduled hearing. Upon the second hearing, Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone was said to stall the voting on the FOI Bill.

The Congress has been expressing dismay over the fact that the Act is still pending. InterAksyon quoted Rep. Tañada saying, “He (Aquino) has to understand that, even as he keeps on saying his administration is transparent, this institutional reform is not for his term because we don’t know if the next administration will be as transparent as Aquino’s.” Senator Gringo Honasan was also quoted saying, “We should ask him, ‘What do you really feel about the FOI bill, not only to continue your parents’ legacy but also to do something good for the country?”. “I challenge my colleagues in the public information committee to show some balls and approve the bill even if it means earning the ire of the President”,said Bayan Muna partylist Representative Teddy Casiño.

What will happen now? What will happen now that the government keeps on stalling Bills that need to be approved, while approving Bills that no one really needs? The future is bleak, and hopefully we will get an answer to that soon.

Sources:

http://www.gov.ph/foi/

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/306670/lawmakers-dismayed-with-evardone-over-stalled-vote-on-foi-bill

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/47935/interactive-timeline–a-history-of-fois-promise-and-death-in-the-15th-congress

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