Tag Archives: Freedom of information legislation

[In the news] Lawmaker vows to reintroduce FOI bill -PhilStar.com

Lawmaker vows to reintroduce FOI bill
By Jess Diaz,The Philippine Star
May 26, 2013

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MANILA, Philippines – Re-elected Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat yesterday said he would reintroduce and push for the approval of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in the incoming 16th Congress.

“We should make FOI a priority in the next Congress as it is crucial in strengthening the tuwid na daan (straight path) advocacy. It is crucial in the administration’s campaign against graft and corruption,” he said.

Baguilat, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, said with more party members winning seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, major reform bills such as the FOI would have a greater chance of approval.

“The FOI bill seeks to make it easier for people and the media to access public documents, especially those related to bidding of government projects as well as expenditures. This way, there will be greater transparency in government affairs and the way taxpayers’ money is spent,” he said.

Read full article @www.philstar.com

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[People] FOI: Waiting for the Hail Mary Pass By Walden Bello

FOI: Waiting for the Hail Mary Pass By Walden Bello
Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 25, 2013

Walden Bello word.world-citizenship.orgWhile the Senate has passed the Freedom of Information Bill (before its members descended into a deadly knife-fight), the House of Representatives still has to bring the FOI bill to the plenary for debate.

Why the bill seems to be headed for a fiasco similar to what happened to it on the last day the 14th Congress, when a quorum call was made to scuttle its ratification, is traced by some of the bill’s advocates to the lack of enthusiasm for it on the part of key players in the House and Malacanang. Others fault the majority of House members, who, they say, would much rather engage in early electoral campaigning than attend session to assure a quorum.

Whatever the reasons, the bill’s sponsors in the House are still hanging on to the Speaker’s observation that in that chamber, “things usually come together in the last three days.”

At this juncture, here are some thoughts, of a more reflective, theoretical kind, on the importance of having a Freedom of Information Act.

The state predates democracy, and at the heart of the state is the bureaucracy. Thus it is not surprising that the development of the modern state has been marked by a struggle between the bureaucratic principle and the democratic principle. In the Philippines, we embraced democracy as our principle of governance, but the Philippine state at independence also carried the baggage of the authoritarian bureaucratic state of the Spanish and American colonial periods.

Public information has been one of the battlefields between bureaucracy and democracy. Bureaucracy thrives on secrecy. For authoritarian bureaucrats, secrecy is essential to their practice of governance from the top. From their perspective, the less the people know, the better for governance and public order.

The democratic revolution turned this authoritarian maxim on its head. The more people knew, the better they could govern themselves. The practices of bureaucracy, however, die hard, and bureaucratic elites have been loath to yield knowledge, for they realize that knowledge is power, and the less the masses know, the less powerful they are.

This is why democracy is a constant struggle not only for self-government, but for transparency, for gaining knowledge of the affairs of the state without which citizens cannot effectively govern themselves. This is why the fight for the Freedom of Information Act is a necessary step in the struggle for a mature democratic state. This is why transparency is intertwined with democracy. This is why authoritarian elites fear transparency, for they are, at heart, suspicious of and fear democracy.

With the passage of the FOI Act, the Philippines will join the ranks of the 95 countries that Wikipedia claims now have Freedom of Information legislation. Many of these countries became democracies later than the Philippines, yet some of these late-democratic states have overtaken us and become more mature democracies than we are.

Passing the bill is our passport to joining the ranks of mature democracies. Not passing it means we remain in the company of bureaucratic authoritarian states like the People’s Republic of China, which have erected non-transparency as a principle of their systems of authoritarian governance.

The bureaucratic elite says that the FOI will compromise national security. On the contrary, it will make the Philippine Republic a stronger republic. The bureaucrats say the FOI will make it hard for them to govern. On the contrary, it will force officials to govern correctly and without the seduction of corruption, which thrives in the dark. The bureaucrats say the FOI is not necessary. On the contrary, without the transparency that the FOI sheds on the affairs of state, our democracy will eventually come under threat.

In football, there is a phenomenon called the “Hail Mary pass,” a long, desperate pass in the last few seconds that results in a winning goal. Will the quarterback finally unleash that pass to the many receivers waiting to score the touchdown for FOI that will be one of the crowning glories of the 15th Congress?

*INQUIRER.net columnist Walden Bello is a member of the House of Representatives. He can be reached at waldenbello@yahoo.com.

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[In the news] Advocates urge lawmakers to pass FOI bill before 15th Congress ends -GMA News

Advocates urge lawmakers to pass FOI bill before 15th Congress ends
by Gian C. Geronimo, GMA News
January 19, 2013

gmanewsonlineWith just only nine session days left for the 15th Congress before going on break for the campaign period, champions of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, including several congressmen themselves, urged the House of Representatives to pass the legislation.

In a press conference on Friday, members of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition reiterated their call for the passage of the FOI bill which they believe can still be done even with the limited time of the remaining Congress sessions.

“We challenge the members of the House of Representatives who continue to resist the passage of the FOI bill to cast their personal fears aside and take a stand for the FOI,” according to the coalition’s statement, signed by more than 100 people representing various organizations.

The statement said should the FOI bill die in the 15th Congress and meet the same fate such as in the previous one, its death would be “indictment” of how legislators treat measures that could affect their “perks and prerogatives.”

Read full article @www.gmanetwork.com

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[Petition] Online Petition for the passage of the FOI bill now -www.ipetitions.com

FOI petition

Dear Friends,

Please sign the Online Petition for the passage of the FOI bill now at

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/please-pass-the-freedom-of-information-bill-now/

and please forward this appeal to all your yahoogroups and personal email contacts. We need a huge number of signatures to make an impact.

For those who want to read the bill, this is the link to the bill – http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/www.opengovpartnership.org/files/Aquino%20FOI%20Bill.pdf

The importance of the Freedom of Information Bill is well established, yet it has been languishing in Congress for the past two decades and remains languishing in the House of Representatives two years after Pres. Pnoy won the presidency on a platform of government transparency; it is high time for the FOI bill to be passed. The FOI version in the Senate, renamed as the People’s Ownership of Government Information Act of 2012, was passed on third and final reading on Dec. 17, 2012. In the House of Representatives, the FOI bill formally known as House Bill 6766 has been passed on first reading. Congress will reconvene on January 21, 2013 giving them only nine sessions before adjourning on Feb. 9 for more than four months until after the May mid-term elections. Our window of opportunity is very tight, but let us make one more push for Congress to enact the bill into law in the 15th Congress. Time is of the essence.

Also, please write Pres. Pnoy an email at Pres. Pnoy <pnoy@noynoyaquino.ph>; titonoy@president.gov.ph; op@president.gov.ph- urging him to certify as urgent the passage of the FOI Bill.

Furthermore, please write House Speaker Belmonte, Jr at Speaker Belmonte <sonnybelmonte2011@yahoo.com>; and info-tech@congress.gov.ph and members of the House of Representatives, notably House Committee On Public Information chairman Rep. Ben Evardone, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez, Jr. and the representatives in your specific province, to pass this FOI Bill now. Log into the website of the 15th Congress House of Representatives, Congress of the Philippines, http://www.congress.gov.ph/ . Scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on CONTACT US. On the next screen, “If you want to contact the chief of staff of your Congressman, please select from the list: (then click GO!)


The next screen shows a picture of your congressman. Click on Send email and this will take you to the next screen where you can write your email. Let us flood them with emails to catch their attention.

With the new year, let us resolve to do whatever we can do, individually and collectively, for a better Philippines – not just for ourselves but more importantly for the 26.5 % of our population classified in 2009 by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) as poor.

Have a very Happy, Healthy, Prosperous New Year!!!

Best regards.
Greg Mariano, Jr.
Hollidaysburg, PA

Some informative links:
http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2012/12/20/888050/foi-bill-wont-be-certified-urgent-palace-official – FOI bill won’t be certified as urgent – Palace official – By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 20, 2012 – 12:00am

http://pcij.org/blog/2012/12/02/a-hundred-voices-one-clamor-certify-foi-bill-as-urgent – December 2, 2012 – A hundred groups urge P-Noy, Congress: Certify FOI as urgent!

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[in the news] FOI bill is dead in 15th Congress; Advocates blame ‘conspiracy’ from PNoy down to House -InterAksyon.com

FOI bill is dead in 15th Congress; Advocates blame ‘conspiracy’ from PNoy down to House
By InterAksyon.com
November 13, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 6:54 pm) Advocates pushing for the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill denounced Tuesday the virtual killing of the bill, over a decade in the legislative mill, by the simple failure of a congressional panel to have a report approved in today’s long-awaited hearing.

“BATTERY, ASSAULT, and MURDER” or “BAM” for short is “what happened to the FOI bill today at the hearing of the Committee on Public Information of the House of Representatives,” said the statement signed by advocates including journalists, press-freedom advocates, transparency and good governance champions, declaring that for all intents and purposes, “the FOI bill is dead in the 15th Congress.”

By ensuring that no committee report will be approved in Monday’s hearing, said the statement, “the House Committee on Public Information has for all intents and purposes left no time for any FOI measure to get approved in the 15th Congress,” and it described committee Chairman Rep. Ben Evardone as “the biggest disappointment of all,” one who displayed “a dismal failure of leadership.”

Read full article @www.interaksyon.com

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[From the web] Young leaders: “There should always be room for FOI!”; Student council reserves a room in their building for Evardone -youth4foi.blogspot.com

Young leaders: “There should always be room for FOI!”; Student council reserves a room in their building for Evardone

A student council has taken the initiative to provide a venue for the long-delayed Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill hearing in the House of Representatives. Rep. Ben Evardone, Chair of the House Committee on Public Information, earlier reneged on the initial commitment of holding the meeting within the third week of October. According to earlier reports, Evardone pushed the date to November 13 due to the alleged lack of available rooms in the Batasan Complex to accommodate the hearing for the measure.

“Since he didn’t take up Rep. Erin Tañada’s earlier offer of a committee hearing venue, we took it upon ourselves to give him another choice and another chance,” said Carlo Brolagda, Chairperson of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (CSSPSC) of the University of the Philippines – Diliman and Convenor of the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI).

The FYI is a national network of youth and student organizations pushing for the passage of the bill together with the Right to Know, Right Now Coalition.

Read full article @ youth4foi.blogspot.com

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[In the news] Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, namimiligrong mamatay pagsapit ng Disyembre -GMANews

Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, namimiligrong mamatay pagsapit ng Disyembre
GMANews
October 9, 2012

Aminado ang pangunahing may-akda ng kontrobersiyal na Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, na hanggang sa Disyembre na lamang ang pag-asa niyang maipapasa ang naturang panukalang batas na pinaniniwalaang makatutulong para magkaroon ng transparency sa gobyerno.

“’Pag hindi papasa on third reading ang FOI before Christmas break in both chambers Senate and the House (of Representatives), wala na. Kasi kung pumasa ‘yan sa isang chamber, wala pa rin. Dapat pareho, both chambers,” paliwanag sa media ni Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III nitong Martes.

Sa legislative calendar ng Kamara, nakatakdang magbakasyon ang Kongreso para sa paggunita ng Undas simula Oktubre 20 hanggang Nobyembre 4, 2012.

Magpapatuloy ang sesyon ng Kongreso sa Nob. 5 hanggang Disyembre 21, 2012. Kasunod nito ay magbabakasyon muli ang mga mambabatas para sa Christmas break na magsisimula sa Dec. 22 na tatagal hanggang January 20, 2013.

Ngunit sa pagbabalik ng sesyon sa Enero 21, 2013, tatagal lamang ito ng tatlong linggo para muling magbakasyon simula February 9 hanggang June 2, 2013, dahil na rin sa idaraos na halalan sa Mayo 2013.

Read full article @ www.gmanetwork.com

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[In the news] 117 solons unite for FOI bill after more than a year of deferred hearings -GMANews

117 solons unite for FOI bill after more than a year of deferred hearings
By Andreo Calonzo, GMA NEWS
August 6, 2012

After more than a year of deferred committee hearings, 117 House members united on Monday to call for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

The lawmakers signed a full-page newspaper advertisement to “heed the people’s clamor” and “offer (their) commitment” to pass the FOI bill before the end of the 15th Congress.

“It is the obligation of Congress, with concurrence by the President, to enact an FOI law that will institutionalize transparency as the mandatory norm rather than a mere discretion for elective and appointive officials,” the advertisement read.

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, principal author of the measure, said the manifesto was signed to send a message to the House leadership that there is already enough support for the FOI bill among lawmakers.

“We will inform the House Speaker of the number of congressmen who signed. The Speaker can order immediately for hearings to proceed. Sayang ang one week,” Tañada said at a press briefing Monday.

“With 117 members, I think the Speaker will be convinced to call for a hearing of the House committee on public information,” he added.

The FOI bill, which seeks to lift the shroud of secrecy over government transactions and data, has been pending before House committee on public information since February last year.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, the panel’s chairperson, decided last week to further defer the committee hearings despite his earlier pronouncements that he will convene the panel on August 7.

Read full article @ www.gmanetwork.com

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[Petition] Attacking press freedom while “enhancing” it -CMFR

Attacking press freedom while “enhancing” it
BY CMFR
April 19, 2012

CERTIFIED by President Benigno Aquino III as a priority bill last January, the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act will be among those discussed by the House of Representatives when Congress re-convenes on May 7, or, significantly enough, four days after Press Freedom Day is celebrated all over the world.

Malacañang has forwarded a version of the bill that, while not perfect, is generally acceptable to the media and civil society groups that have been working for the passage of an FOI act since the 1990s. The length of time it has taken for the country to reach this point has become an embarrassment in the world community of democracies, the Philippines being among the worst laggards in the passage of an FOI law. It is also the only country among the members of the steering committee of the US and Brazilian initiative, the Open Government Partnership, without an FOI law.

There are other FOI bills in Congress that will mostly likely be discussed, opening up the process to the consideration of provisions in those other bills that could be incorporated in the reconciled and consolidated bill. The most troublesome of these provisions involves the right of reply.

The FOI bill filed by Nueva Ecija Congressman Rodolfo Antonino makes the right of reply of public officials mandatory for the media. Before Congress adjourned, and after the House Committee on Public Information adopted the Malacañang version, Antonino vowed to fight for the provision in order to prevent, he said, media abuse of the right to information once an FOI bill is passed.

Another Congressman, Rep. Pedro Romualdo of Camiguin, announced at about the same time that he would continue to press for approval of House Bill 117 which would compel the media to open their pages (in the case of publications) and airtime (in the case of broadcast programs) to the right of reply. Romualdo is also best remembered as the congressman who asked for a roll call on the last day of the 14th Congress in 2010 when the FOI bill was about to be considered, his call resulting in a finding of lack of quorum which prevented the passage of the bill.

The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ), a coalition of media and media advocacy organizations founded to address the killing of journalists and to defend journalists under threat, has repeatedly made known its objections to any right of reply (ROR) law, or, for that matter, any ROR provision concealed in any other law.

Among the reasons why FFFJ and other media and journalists’ groups including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) oppose an ROR law is that it would not only undermine the editorial prerogative to decide what to publish, which is at the heart of editorial independence; it would also make unlimited newspaper pages and broadcast airtime available to those who only have to claim to have been denied their right of reply, thus limiting the amount of media space and time available for relevant reports on public issues.

The right of reply is in the first place already part of the professional and ethical responsibilities of the press, whether in print, online or broadcast. It is inherent in the ethical imperative of fairness, which mandates the presentation of all sides in a controversy. The principal function of the Philippine Press Institute’s Press Council is in fact to guarantee the right of reply. If that right has not always been respected in practice by some journalists, it is not a justification for subjecting ALL media organizations to a constraint on their freedom simply because of the failings of a few. Enshrining in law the punishment of all for the errors of a few is not only unreasonable. It is also dangerous, since it would infringe on a freedom vital to the health of a democracy.

Self-regulation is a principle vigorously honored in practice by a significant number of the major media agencies in the Philippines. In truth, apart from the Philippine Press Institute’s Press Council, the national association of broadcasters, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) has a Standards Authority that receives, reviews, and passes judgment on complaints of alleged misdemeanor by its member broadcasters and agencies. Out of the 173 complaints it has received from 2009 to present, the KBP Standards Authority has resolved and acted upon 127 cases (or 73.41 percent of total cases filed).

If Representatives Antonino and Romualdo are genuinely moved by fears of media abuse once an FOI bill is passed, FFFJ would like to remind them and other lawmakers that the abuse of any right is a risk in a democracy, the alternative absence of all risk being the denial of that right. However, there are also means in the self-regulatory regime in the Philippine press and media—which include, among others, mechanisms for the filing of complaints and the regular monitoring of media performance—rather than the use of the coercive power of the law to prevent such abuse.

It is ironic that Representative Antonino should make the passage of an FOI act as part of the need to enhance press freedom, the vehicle at the same time for its infringement.

FFFJ will continue to assist in building consensus on supporting mechanisms for airing complaints and grievances against the press as its members have helped in the past to establish and strengthen press councils in the regions.

But in observance of World Press Freedom Day, FFFJ also calls on all stakeholders of democracy to demand that the 15th Congress finally fulfill one of the basic requirements of democracy: a government that grants all citizens the freedom to access and disseminate information on those matters that concern them as free men and women.

Sign petition here www.cmfr-phil.org

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[In the news] Malacanang appreciates group’s recognition of proposed Freedom of Information bill -Balita.ph

Malacanang appreciates group’s recognition of proposed Freedom of Information bill
February 15, 2012

MANILA, Feb. 15 — Malacanang expressed appreciation over the move of the ‘Right to Know, Right Now’ coalition to welcome the submission of President Benigno S. Aquino III‘s administration of its proposed substitute Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to the Lower House.

“We undertook our task in good faith, and we very much appreciate the coalition recognizing this,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III said in a statement which was read by Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.

The Right to Know, Right Now coalition, a network of 150 civic and media groups, is pushing for the passage of an FOI law.

“From the very start, as we who comprised the Study Group told the coalition, we hoped that the process of engaging civil society and media as we undertook our work, would serve as a confidence-building exercise,” Quezon said.

“Together with the coalition, we look forward to the House and the Senate in turn doing their part to make FOI legislation one of the crowning achievements of the 15th Congress,” he added.

Read full article @ balita.ph

[In the news] Malacañang’s FOI bill makes public officials’ asset statements more accessible | Sun.Star

Malacañang’s FOI bill makes public officials’ asset statements more accessible | Sun.Star.

February 3, 2012

MANILAMalacañang’s version of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill will make asset statements of government officials, including members of the Judiciary, more accessible to the public, said a Cabinet official Friday.

Under the measure, the President, Vice President, members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, members of the Supreme Court, members of constitutional commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the Armed Forces with general or flag rank are required to publicly disclose their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) yearly. Officials are also required to post these documents on their agency’s websites.

Have something to report? Tell us in text, photos or videos.

Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said, however, that the Palace will still hold consultations regarding the bill’s implementing rules and regulations to reconcile with the Supreme Court’s policy of withholding SALNs to avoid being subjected for harassment.

Information not relevant in the SALN of an official, including their addresses, children’s names, and other personal data can be “redacted,” he added.

“The media, civil society, the public want to know ano ang mga ari-arian mo? Magkano ang halaga nito? Kailan mo binili, minana or whatever. Sa nakaraang taon, ngayong taon, paano ba nag-iba ang networth mo? I think we can all agree that this is the important information,” he said.

Read full article @ www.sunstar.com.ph

[In the news] Freedom of info bill gets new look, new name – INQUIRER.net

Freedom of info bill gets new look, new name
By Christian V. Esguerra, Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 9, 2012

It’s loking good.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill pending in Congress will get a “new look” now that Malacañang has finally come out with its version of the measure.

To be called the People’s Ownership of Government Information bill, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the committee on public information and mass media, said: “What will now emerge from our committee is the ‘Pogi’ bill.”

“We are coining a new acronym in reference to one core component I would like to push,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.

Honasan said the new name, which is Filipino slang for handsome, would promote the idea that in a democratic setting “all government information actually belongs to the people.”

The new measure “reverses” the main requirement of the FOI bill which is that a private entity would have to show in court why he or she needs a particular piece of information from a government agency in the event that that agency denies their request, the senator said.

Read full article @ newsinfo.inquirer.net

[From the web] Of Protests and Genuine Public Service: Freedom of Information for 2012 – www.blogwatch.ph

Of Protests and Genuine Public Service: Freedom of Information for 2012
by Dine Racoma
January 4, 2012

 If one may liken the age of the Philippine Freedom of Information bill to an old commercial, one can say that she is no longer a baby because she is now a lady. Had she been a true human being, she would have been one of the numerous addicts of the WTF generation (Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook). At 15 years of age, she would have already started dating and may even be a prime candidate for unwanted pregnancy or drug addiction. She would be smack in the middle of the arguments of extending Grade 6 to Grade 7, and the arguments on sex education as part of the school curriculum.

Excellent house bills are not supposed to reach puberty while waiting for their enactment in Congress.

Long overdue is an understatement. The numerous debates on whether the law shall be made retroactive (applicable to old government contracts and records) or proactive made it a little famous for a while, with the former being pushed by traditional politicians in their efforts to shut off the inquiries on old questionable contracts. The issue on security was also raised up, but any Tom, Dick, and Harry can attest that with the right verbiage, it is completely possible to exclude the matters that involve national security and leave the rest of the government’s database open for public viewing and scrutiny.

Time Magazine’s person of the year for 2011 was the generic Protester, the one who wanted change that can make and rebuild an otherwise stagnated system. Such is the spirit which is globally lauded in the year past and the years to come. Such spirit is supposedly embodied in the almost archived and yet to be approved bills such as the long-standing Freedom of Information Bill in the Philippines. It is supposed to clear the shady cobwebs that make the people lose their trust in the government, for it is the way which grants the average Juan access to government records and information.

Unfortunately, unlike the Time-awarded Protester that it should resemble, the Freedom of Information bill is almost reduced to a whisper. It is merely placed under the rug, while there is a sea of floating issues and unnecessary sensationalism that capitalize on many other things except for the substantial ones that can really bring in some positive and long lasting change.

Read full article @ www.blogwatch.ph

[In the news] Senate leader hopes for FOI bill passage before Congress adjourns – SunStar.com.ph

Senate leader hopes for FOI bill passage before Congress adjourns
SunStar.com.ph
January 5, 2012

 MANILASenate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday urged his colleagues to pass the Freedom of Information bill, which will make most government records and data available to citizens, before the 15th Congress adjourns.

Malacanang on Wednesday announced support for passage of the bill “to make the constitutional injunction making information a right of the public a living reality.”

Access to information that will affect national security, the country’s diplomatic relations, and police and military operations will remain restricted. The Palace version of the FOI bill will meanwhile make it mandatory for agencies to publish the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth of their officials online.

“This is a positive step for the Aquino government,” Cayetano, who challenged the President in 2010 to declare the FOI bill a priority measure, said.

Cayetano is one of the principal authors of the FOI bill at the Senate.

Read full article @ www.sunstar.com.ph

[in the news] House leader to push for info bill’s approval – www.sunstar.com.ph

House leader to push for info bill’s approval
http://www.sunstar.com.ph
January 4, 2012

 MANILA — An author of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill vowed to push for a definite date for the measure’s passage after President Benigno Aquino III expressed full support of the legislation.

House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III said he will set up talks with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and House Committee on Public Information chairman Ben Evardone to discuss the next steps for the approval of the measure.

Plan your Sinulog week ahead and find out what’s in store for Sinulog 2012.

Aquino decided to back the bill’s passage after his aides proposed safeguards against potential abuse while ensuring full government transparency, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Wednesday.

Tanada, an ally of Aquino, said he welcomes Palace’s support to the Freedom of Information bill. “I have always been patient and confident that the Freedom of Information will move.”

“It is now incumbent on both chambers to work for its passage before June 2012,” Tanada added.

Pro-democracy groups and media watchdogs have called for the bill’s passage for years to guard against corruption and government abuses, but it has never been passed by Congress.

Evardone, chairman of the committee dealing with the bill, said Aquino’s support of the legislation could enable it to be passed this year.

The FOI bill is still pending for approval in the House Committee on Public Information after the leadership decided to wait for the Palace’s version of the measure.

Read full article @ www.sunstar.com.ph

[In the news] Aquino OKs submission of Palace’s FOI bill to Congress – interaksyon.com

Aquino OKs submission of Palace’s FOI bill to Congress
by Chichi Conde and Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon.com
January 4, 2012

 MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE – 5:10 p.m.) After languishing for 13 long years, the Freedom of Information bill finally appears on the verge of becoming law after President Benigno Aquino III approved a final Palace version of the measure on Wednesday and ordered it submitted to Congress.

Aquino gave the green light after meeting with his spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office head Ramon Carandang, PCDSPO Undersecretary Manolo Quezon, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.

Quezon said the Palace version — finalized after months of consultations with lawmakers, stakeholders, and government officials — will be submitted to Congress “in a few days” to ensure its swift passage.

“The President’s marching order is to push ahead with the FOI,” Quezon said.

Lawmakers on Wednesday welcomed Aquino’s order, although Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone, who chairs the House of Representatives’ public information committee, said this did not mean the chamber would totally adopt the Palace version.

While saying the submission of the Palace version would “definitely hasten the approval of the FOI bill,” Evardona added that “it does mean, however, that we will adopt it hook line and sinker.”

Read full article @ interaksyon.com

[In the news] PNoy on FOI bill: Push ahead- philstar.com

PNoy on FOI bill: Push ahead
By Jun Pasaylo, The Philippine Star
January 04, 2012

 MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III directed his communications group to “push ahead” with the much-delayed Freedom of Information bill, a Palace official announced today.

In a press briefing at Malacanang, Communications Group Undersecretary Manolo Quezon said the President has no immediate opposition on the draft of the FOI.

“His only intervention was the removal of the proposed Information Commission, which will (just) add another layer of bureaucracy,” Quezon said quoting the President.

“The President marching order (to us) is to push ahead with the FOI bill,” he said.

Read full article @ www.philstar.com

[From the web] Palace draft of freedom of info bill: Focus on restrictions? – CMFR

Palace draft of freedom of info bill: Focus on restrictions?
Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

By Kathryn Roja G. Raymundo
Published in PJR Reports, July-August 2011

A scan of the initial draft of the Aquino administration’s Freedom of Information (FOI) bill reveals a focus on restricting rather than enhancing the right to information. The administration bill expands the list of information exempt from public disclosure, and through that alone already restricts the right to information.

The expansion of the Tañada bill (Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III, one of the main authors of the measure and known advocate) provision on exempting matters on national defense into national security provides government agencies the same catch-all excuse for withholding information that has in the past been used to justify government secrecy and even the commission of human rights violations [Section 6, Exceptions, (a) and (b)]. This provision in fact bears the fingerprints of the intelligence and military communities, whose traditions of secrecy and antipathy to human rights qualify them least to providing inputs to any FOI act.

A provision forbidding the release of information on policy discussions until the adoption of the policy is on the other hand antithetical to the principle of citizen participation in the making of state policy [Section 6, Exceptions, (c) and (g)]. The bill also removes the public interest override on executive (Presidential) privilege in the Tañada version, thus institutionalizing absolute executive privilege through law.

The administration bill also creates a supposedly independent Information Commission (IC) whose members would be appointed by the President. The IC would have vast powers, among them that of ruling on the legitimacy of requests for information, imposing a temporary or permanent ban on the disclosure of information [Section 20, Powers and Functions of the Commission, (d)], holding any person in direct or indirect contempt [Section 20, Powers and Functions of the Commission, (e)], proposing legislation, and suggesting amendments to Philippine laws on access to information. For all these powers, the commissioners are not required to have any background in human rights, information, or media advocacy and, except for the chairman who must be a lawyer, need only be at least 35 years old and natural born Filipino citizens (Section 16, Composition of the Commission).

Advocates: Be vigilant

During the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility’s (CMFR) Policy Forum on the FOI, many participants were concerned with the number of exceptions in the draft bill. The event took two tracks to discuss the FOI issue, one by following the legislation process and then, reviewing the experience of different sectors.

CMFR, in partnership with the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center, held the first of a series of three media and policy forums last July 27. A grant from the National Endowment for Democracy made the event possible.

CMFR and the participants emphasized the need for an FOI bill. But they also asked the public to remain vigilant.

Although there is a public clamor for an FOI bill, President Benigno S. Aquino III has expressed his administration’s “objections and reservations” and whether it will be included in the second Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council as a priority measure was still unlikely at this writing.

FOI advocates fear that if the administration bill is passed even in its present form—and it is likely to be amended, altered and watered down by the members of Congress—it will make access to information more problematic than it is today, putting it in the same category of laws supposedly meant to broaden citizen rights but which actually restrict them.

Once in the books such a law will be difficult to repeal or amend. Perhaps the President fears the possibility of abuse, say these advocates, but the abuse of rights is an acceptable and necessary risk in a democratic regime; only the denial of rights can guarantee the absence of abuse. Granted for the sake of argument that the Aquino administration will be liberal in its implementation of the bill it has drafted. But what happens after 2016, when a new administration whose shape and temper we cannot predict, comes to power? Whatever FOI bill becomes law will, after all, outlive the Aquino administration.

[In the news] Cayetano wants FOI passage fast-tracked – InterAksyon.com

Cayetano wants FOI passage fast-tracked
InterAksyon.com

MANILA, PhilippinesSenate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday said there is a need to fast-track the passage of the Freedom of Information bill, saying a “clean president” or an honest administration are not enough to end corruption in government.

Cayetano also said he was giving the administration the “benefit of the doubt” for again not including the FOI bill among the priority measures endorsed by President Benigno Aquino III to the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council meeting earlier this week.

“Kailangan pabilisin na ito (This needs to be fast-tracked),” Cayetano told a press briefing. “Ang magandang balita naman dito ay ang lahat nagkakasundo na importante ang FOI para na ma-inform ang tao sa kung ano ang nangyayari sa gobyerno at essential ito sa good governance para malabanan ang corruption (The good news is everyone agrees that the FOI is important in informing people about what is happening in government and is essential to good governance so we can fight corruption).”

Read full article @ InterAksyon.com

[Video] FOI Advocates call on President Aquino to make clear his position – www.pcij.org

Advocates for the Freedom of Information Act call on President Benigno Aquino III to make clear his position on the bill, which has languished in the legislature for lack of support.

Uploaded in youtube by pcij.org on May 6, 2011

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