Tag Archives: Freedom of Information

[Statement] Fight COVID-19 and the Virus of Abuse, Defend the People’s Right to Know -Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition

Fight COVID-19 and the Virus of Abuse
Defend the People’s Right to Know

Statement of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition
06 May 2020

Press freedom and freedom of information are bedrock freedoms — paramount enablers of our people’s rights to health, livelihood, education, and life itself.

The shutdown of ABS-CBN is clear evidence of doublespeak and unfair play in concert by the Solicitor General, the NTC, the Executive Branch, and the President himself.

It is, too, clear proof of the pithy negligence of the House of Representatives to act on long-pending bills to renew the network’s franchise. This, the House leaders did in obvious subservient loyalty to a President who had expressed in no uncertain terms, multiple times, his contempt for ABS-CBN over the allegedly arbitrary non-airing of just a few of his campaign ads in 2016.

The NTC, the SolGen, and the President and his lieutenants among leaders of the House did not just shut down a network yesterday. They also put press freedom, freedom of information, and the people’s right to know under virtual lock and key in ABS-CBN.
The threat of COVID-19 transmission is still high and we need to take care that the system is not overwhelmed by sharp spikes in cases. People for their part are properly cautious but without the more critical information, there will be uncertainty that everything that can be done is being done.

In this time of national emergency and quarantine, information is as essential as that of protective equipment and food supplies. People need useful information from as many sources, in the same way, the government needs as many outlets to channel the information it dispenses.

Stopping the operations of a major media network now is not only ill-timed but also undermines efforts to keep people informed. It is also undeniable how such a familial spirit is able to reach millions of people not just through information, but with the much-needed resources to help survive this pandemic. It distracts us from our main task at this time—to fight COVID-19, by feeding political division and aggravating distrust.

Covid-19 is a virus that may hopefully soon pass, and our nation could be nursed back to health.

But the virus of secrecy and opacity, abuse, negligence, incompetence, and contempt for due process, the rule of law, and inalienable freedoms under the Constitution by people in power?

That is simply inscrutable, hopefully not incurable, at this time of a pandemic when the nation hungers for more information from independent media.

Submit your contribution online through HRonlinePH@gmail.com
Include your full name, e-mail address, and contact number.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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

[From the web] Freedom of information -INQUIRER.net

Freedom of information.
By Artemio V. Panganiban, Philippine Daily Inquirer
December 28, 2013

Good news! Prior to its adjournment for the holidays, the Senate started plenary deliberation on the freedom of information (FOI) bill. Buried in the legislative mill for the last 14 years, the bill was resurrected by Sen. Grace Poe in the Senate committee on public information, which approved it last September. Senate President Franklin Drilon expects the entire chamber to pass it by the end of March.

inquirer

Sticky points. But the bad news is that the House committee on public information and media has yet to act on the measure. All it did was to give its technical working group until mid-February to consolidate the 19 or so pending versions of the FOI bill.

It seems the House committee is stuck on several issues, like the insistence of some legislators to install a “rider,” the so-called “right of reply” that would require media outlets to give criticized officials the same print space or broadcast time, free of charge. Constitutionalists view this as a violation of the right to free speech of media practitioners.

Read full article @opinion.inquirer.net
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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.

[Featured Site] The FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)

The FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)

Youth4FOI

The FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) is a national network of youth and student organizations that call for transparency and accountability among public officials and offices through the immediate passage of the People’s Freedom of Information Bill. As a member organization of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, we are in solidarity with the struggle of various sectors of society for the transformation of the government as an institution that is open and honest to the people it serves.

The FYI was formed in August 2012, during the Third Regular Session of the 15th Congress. Together with 71 organizations from schools and communities all over the Philippines, we began the first youth-led campaign for the FOI Bill. We diligently attended hearings on the bill and actively engaged legislators in both Houses of Congress. At the same time, we held various discussions in various parts of the country to educate our fellow young people on the issue. Moreover, we joined various sectors in marching to Malacañang to pressure the Executive to heed our call. Unfortunately, those opposed to the bill were successful in derailing its approval in the House of Representatives.

Our resolve remains steadfast.

Now, with more than a hundred organizations comprising our ranks that continue to grow, we plan on intensifying our efforts within and beyond the halls of the legislature this 16th Congress. With this, we invite you and your organization to become partners of the FYI as we mount our strongest campaign yet for the passage of the People’s FOI Act. Click here to find out how your group can join us!

Visit their site @youth4foi.blogspot.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.

[Event/Campaign] #LightUp4FOI: Candle-Lighting on the Eve of the International Right to Know Day

#LightUp4FOI: Candle-Lighting on the Eve of the International Right to Know Day
By Jeff Crisostomo, Yuen Abana and Janet Aguinaldo Morales

LightUp4FOI

WhenFriday, September 27, 2013
Time5:00pm until 8:00pm

The PDAF Scam exposed how we Filipinos remain victims to plunder despite numerous government mechanisms to protect public funds. In the PDAF system, projects are supposed to conform to a limited menu of eligible project and each project is subject to oversight by Congress, the Department of Budget and Management and the implementing agencies. Each project has to abide by the Procurement Act, stringent guidelines on release of funds and participation by NGOs, and is subject to regular audit by COA.

Amid the breakdown at different points in government safeguard mechanisms, the calls to address the ills of pork barrel and to bring the guilty to justice, we also demand the immediate passage of the People’s Freedom of Information Act. It will empower us to directly protect ourselves against abuses of hard-earned resources that we entrust to government.

The Senate responded with urgency to our call. Public Information Chair Senator Grace Poe already completed the committee process and will present its report to the Senate plenary soon. Senate President Franklin Drilon targets to pass the FOI bill on third reading by end 2013, which, if it happens, will be the fastest ever by a chamber of Congress in the long legislative history of FOI. Emerging from past mixed signals, Malacañang announced a more decisive push by reportedly including FOI in the list of priority measures to be submitted to the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC).

Still, the House of Representatives remains the bastion of resistance to FOI. No credible concrete action to advance the bill has been proposed by its leaders. Worse, old excuses, such as the unavailability of a meeting room, are rehashed to explain inaction.

On Friday, September 27, the Lower House will hold its last session before taking a two-week break. On that day, they will approve the budgets of the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management. Budget discussions are an opportune time to press the issue of the pork barrel controversy and to push for transparency in the handling of public funds.

September 27 is also the eve of the International Right to Know Day. The Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition and other concerned groups and individuals will troop to the House of Representatives to convey our urgent demand for the passage of the People’s Freedom of Information Act. We invite you to join us.

We will assemble at 5 o’clock in the afternoon for a short program. By 6:30 p.m. we will light candles to symbolize our desire to have a government where information is illuminated and made accessible to all citizens.

Those who will not be able to join us in Batasan are encouraged to organize their own candle-lighting events in their own localities. You can also be involved via social media by posting a photo of yourself with a lit candle and a statement stating your call for the passage of the FOI Bill, with hashtag #LightUp4FOI. (Ex. “Ako si [NAME]; kasama ako sa panawagang ipasa na ang FOI Bill! #LightUp4FOI” or “I am [NAME]; I am one with the call for the passage of the FOI Bill! #LightUp4FOI”)

Panahon na para sa FOI sa ating bansa. Sa dami ng lumalantad na isyung may kinalaman sa pondo ng mamamayan, palakasin natin ang panawagang ipasa ang batas na magtitiyak na ang pamahalaan natin ay bukas at may pananagutan.

Tayo na para sa FOI!

https://www.facebook.com/events/670342512976768/

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.

[Statement] Break through the Marcos impunity: Pass the Freedom of Information bill now -PAHRA

Break through the Marcos impunity:
Pass the Freedom of Information bill now

21 September 2013-41st Anniversary of the Imposition of Martial Law

pahra logo copy

On September 21, 2011, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched a joint endeavor to implement the first Principle of the United Nations Updated Principles in Combating Impunity – the Right to Truth.

The Updated Principles present two aspects of this right: the individual(s) right to know as well as the victim(s)’ families and relatives to know the circumstances and the reasons for the victim’s torture, enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing. The other aspect is the collective aspect, wherein the nation should remember the tragedies that were consequent of the human rights violations. The obligation to preserve documents and other related evidences to the violations arise from the state’s duty. So is the obligation that public access is facilitated.

None of the documents subsequently turned over by the military would help add to the numbers of those who with “conclusive presumption” would be recognized and compensated as victims of human rights violations during the martial law period. The AFP documents have not even start to come close to the documentation done by the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) which was set up in 1974 by the Association of the Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP).

No additional information as of now may be seen as forthcoming from any initiative of the security forces. We may never know how many even how many have been arrested, tortured, subjected to extra-judicial execution and enforced disappearance. Much less would there be a naming of perpetrators of these serious human rights violations and bringing them to justice.

The September 21, 2011 joint endeavor is now proved to be no more than an empty gesture to obtain the right to truth to combat impunity.

It is the people who must initiate to surface the truth about the gross violations against human rights, not only of civil and political rights but also of the violations of the people’s economic, social and cultural rights, especially of the impoverished, the marginalized and the vulnerable. Even then, it is also imperative to bring to the open the violations done against our Muslim sisters and brothers during the repressive period of martial law.

Now, more than ever, with the expose of grand corruption of Napoles-ian scale, should all people of good-will determinedly work for the passage of the people’s initiative bill on the freedom of information.

Accountability must be obtained for both human rights violations and criminal activities.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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] Lawmaker vows to reintroduce FOI bill -PhilStar.com

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

philstar-logo-white1

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

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.

wk of disappeared2 copysign petiton2 small

[Statement] Politicians and their Conscience -HRD Pilipinas

Politicians and their Conscience

HRD Logo sample colored5 smallIn times like these consult your politicians. Surprisingly, they would present the best solutions to our societal snags and suggests in a simplest way how to carry out these proposals once they are elected. How clever it is. But really in the contrary they will do the opposite. More often than not, they will make an excuse eventually and convince us that their decisions and actions are guided purely by their conscience. But who knows what their conscience says?

Did they ponder on their conscience when thousands of families forcibly evicted from their homes in exchange of their so-called urban development? This is usually done without exhausting the Republic Act 7279 or the Urban Development Housing Act (UDHA). Because of this, thousands of families left homeless.

Did they consult their conscience not to approve the increase in salary/wages of our workers? Not only that. They have done nothing with regard to the security of tenure, the banning of labor unions in most factories and establishments and other labor related violations.

Did they consider their conscience in apparently delaying intentionally the distribution of land to our poor farmers? With reference to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), the government is now racing time since it will end until July 2014. Maybe because most politicians are landlords/owners. And probably because they will do anything to reinstate their idle possessions.

Did they consult their conscience not allowing the Freedom of information (FOI) bill pass into law? Congress killed the FOI bill apparently due to lack of quorum. But really, politicians are afraid they would be subjected to legitimate public scrutiny. It would guarantee the right of people to know the pleasant or distasteful, and appalling about them.

Did they refer to their conscience in arresting a human rights defender named Timogen “Cocoy” Tulawie, and the unceasing impunity in the country? Cocoy is falsely accused by his detractors of a crime he did not commit. Before he was charged and arrested, Cocoy experienced harassments and received countless threats while actively involved in promoting, protecting and defending the rights of the Moro people.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is nothing more dangerous than the conscience of a bigot”, Most of us should anticipate that all through the election campaign they will promise abundance and prosperity. But mind you, they will work only for their own interest, and provide nothing but impairment and despair.

What matters most really is the people’s prospect and judgment of what is rightful and just. We must unite as one against these phony saviors and pretenders, and reclaim our inherent rights and freedoms.

Contact Person:
Rommel Yamzon
#45 St. Mary Street, Cubao, Quezon City
Tel (632) 4378054 / Fax (632) 9113643
Email: hrd.pilipinas@gmail.com

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

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.

[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.

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] JOINT EDITORIAL | Take a stand, don’t cop out on FOI -InterAksyon.com

JOINT EDITORIAL | Take a stand, don’t cop out on FOI
By NUJP, KBP, PPI, PCIJ, CMFR
January 21, 2013

InterAksyon logo2The following is a joint editorial released by the the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, the Philippine Press Institute, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. InterAksyon.com endorses the call for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill.

It is the season of elections and all political parties and candidates are wont to spin a slew of promises yet again in their drive for votes.

But before they start courting voters yet again, the first order of business is this: Political parties and candidates must deliver on a promise they’ve made in elections past by taking and making known their party and personal stand on the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

Read full article @interaksyon.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] 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

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.

[Statement] FOI: A Bill that Unites

FOI: A Bill that Unites
18 January 2013

FOIJUST as it happened in the 14th Congress, the Senate of the 15th Congress has delivered yet again and passed on third and final reading the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act. And just as it happened in the 14th Congress, the FOI bill once again teeters on the brink of death in the House of Representatives of the 15th Congress.

The leaders of the House have two choices: Kill the FOI bill by extended inaction, as their counterparts did in the 14th Congress, or act with dispatch and muster the political will to bring to light a law that will empower citizens to participate directly in the drive for good governance and against corruption.

Even without a certification from the President as to the necessity of the FOI bill’s immediate enactment, the House Committee on Rules, through the Majority Leader, is empowered to declare a bill urgent to facilitate its immediate passage. This is a clear option that the House leaders can take to fast-track the bill in the nine session days left from the resumption of session on January 21 to the next adjournment on Feb. 9, 2013.

Rule X, Section 52, of the House Rules reads:

“Urgent Bills and Resolutions. – The Committee on Rules, through the Majority Leader, may declare a bill or resolution urgent and consider it in accordance with a timetable. The timetable, prepared by the Committee on Rules, shall fix the date when the bill or resolution must be reported by the committee concerned, the number of days or hours to be allotted to the consideration of the bill or resolution in plenary session, and the date and hour debate must be concluded and final vote taken.”

The FOI bill is a bill that unites all sectors of Philippine society. The right to information is every citizen’s human right, and the passage of the FOI bill for the effective operationalization of this human right is every citizen’s demand.

As things stand, the FOI bill is just a few steps away from passing into law. It would be most unfortunate if, by sheer inaction of the House, the citizens will again be denied a legislation that is truly crucial to solidifying and institutionalizing governance reforms. The pending bill in the House, without the right-of-reply rider, is already a balanced bill. It adopts fully Malacañang’s inputs addressing the President’s concerns, and enjoys wide support from stakeholders.

The opportunity costs of not passing the bill are clear. Non-passage means a waste of painstaking efforts, resources, and taxpayers’ money. The FOI bill will have to go through, yet again, the tortuous legislative process in the next Congress.

Yet other than these cost concerns, the death of the FOI bill in the 15th Congress could well be an indictment on how some politicians eschew political reforms, particularly those that may diminish their perks and prerogatives. The death of the FOI bill would be the supreme irony that politicians in the House seeking reelection or election to new positions could offer to voters whom they are now courting with more and newer promises of reforms.

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 FOI. We exhort Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to be a leader, and rally his colleagues to pass the FOI bill now.

Signed:

1. Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan, Co-Director, Institute for Freedom of Information and Co-Convenor, Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition
2. Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo, DD, Chairman, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA)
3. Atty. Roan Libarios, President, Integrated Bar of the Philippines
4. Ms. Malou Mangahas, Executive Director, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
5. Mr. Peter Angelo V. Perfecto, Executive Director, Makati Business Club
6. Ms. Annie Geron, General Secretary, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)
7. Prof. Luis Teodoro, Deputy Director, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
8. Mr. Josua Mata, Secretary General, Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
9. Ms. Yuen Abana, Campaign Coordinator, Partido ng Manggagawa
10. Ms. Clarissa V. Militante
Coordinator, Focus on the Global South, Philippines Programme
11. Mr. Jun Aguilar; Mr. Elso Cabangon, Filipino Migrant Workers Group
12. Mr. Max M. De Mesa, Chairperson, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
13. Mr. Ramon R. Tuazon, President; Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid, President Emeritus & Senior Adviser; Ms. Madeline B. Quiamco, Dean
Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication
14. Atty. Roberto Eugenio Cadiz, Executive Director, Libertás
15. Mr. Alwyn Alburo, Vice Chairman; Ms. Rowena Paraan, Secretary-General,National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
16. Prof. Leonor M. Briones, Lead Covenor, Social Watch Philippines
17. Ms. Maxine Tanya Hamada, Executive Director, International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov)
18. Mr. Ariel Sebellino, Executive Director, Philippine Press Institute
19. Dr. Edna A. Co, Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman
20. Mr. Norman Cabrera, Secretary General; Mr. John Carlos G. de los Reyes, Candidate for Senator (2013); Mr. Rizalito Y. David, Candidate for Senator (2013)
Atty. Marwil Llasos, Candidate for Senator (2013); Mr. Carlos Cabochan, Candidate for Representative, 2nd District of Caloocan City (2013); Mr. Harry Tambuatco, Candidate for Representative, Lone district of Muntinlupa city (2013);Mr. Edilberto M. Cuenca, Candidate for Representative, 1st District of Makati City (2013); Mr. Frank Reyes, Candidate for Representative, Lone District of Mandaluyong City (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party
21. Atty Eirene Jhone Aguila, FOI and New Politics Advocate
22. Ms. Joy Aceron, Program Director, Government Watch/ PODER, Ateneo School of Government
23. Mr. Sixto Donato C. Macasaet, Executive Director, Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO)
24. Ms. Jenina Joy Chavez, Southeast Asia Monitor for Action
25. Mr. Vincent Lazatin, Executive Director, Transparency and Accountability Network
26. Dr. Segundo Romero, Program Director, Ateneo School of Government
27. Mr. Ricardo Reyes, President, Freedom from Debt Coalition
28. Dr. Joseph Anthony Lim, Professor, Economics Department, Ateneo De Manila University
29. Dr. J. Prospero de Vera, Professor, UPNCPAG, Executive Director, Pimentel Institute for Leadership and Governance
30. Mr. Bong Fabe, Freelance journalist
31. Atty. Risa Halagueña, Fellow, Action for Economic Reforms
32. Sr. Cres Lucero, SFIC, Co-Chairperson; Mr. Emmanuel Amistad, Executive Director, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
33. Atty. Corazon Valdez Fabros, Lead Convenor, Stop the War Coalition Philippines
34. Ms. Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, National Coordinator; Ms. Mercy Fabros,Advocacy and Campaign Coordinator; Ms. May-i Fabros, Coordinator of Young Women Collective; Ms. Rosheic Sims, Assistant Coordinator of Young Women Collective, WomanHealth Philippines
35. Mr. Rolando Ocampo, Spokesperson, Prudentialife Warriors/Movement for Change and Good Governance
36. Ms. Cielo Magno, Coordinator, Bantay Kita
37. Mr. Red Batario, Executive Director; Ms. G. Sevilla Alvarez, Program Director, Center for Community Journalism and Development
38. Mr. Isagani R. Serrano, President, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
39. Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, Director, University of the Philippines Center for Women’s Studies
40. Mr. Jaime Tadeo; Ms. Trinidad Domingo, Save Agrarian Reform Alliance
41. Ms. Mary Delis Santos, Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan
42. Mr. Romeo Royandoyan, Centro Saka
43. Mr. Eduardo Mora, Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Pilipinas
44. Ms. Jessica Reyes-Cantos, Lead Convenor, Rice Watch and Action Network
45. Ms. Ellene Sana, Executive Director, Center for Migrant Advocacy
46. Mr. Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator, Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
47. Mr. Jong Pacanot, Secretary General, Freedom from Debt Coalition – Southern Mindanao
48. Ms. Evita L. Jimenez, Executive Director, Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
49. Ms. Andrea Maria Patricia Sarenas, Chairperson, Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE)
50. Fr. Albert E. Alejo, SJ, Ehem Anticorruption Program
51. Mr. Jason Alacapa, Chairperson, University Student Council (UPM USC), UP Manila
52. Ms. Jean Enriquez, Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific
53. Dr. Nymia Pimentel Simbulan, Executive Director, PhilRights
54. Atty. Ray Paolo J. Santiago, Executive Director, Ateneo Human Rights Center
55. Ms. Zenaida S. Mique, Executive Director, Claimants 1081
56. Sr. Nelda L. Balaba, OND, Program Coordinator, Justice and Peace Desk – Social Action Center, Diocese of Marbel
57. Ms. Marjorie Anne Yoro, Suprema, UP Kabataang Pilosopo Tasyo (KaPiTas), UP Diliman
58. Ms. Moses Albiento, Chairperson, Alliance of Student Leaders (ASL), Ateneo de Manila University
59. Mr. Joseph Angelo Gutierrez, Chairperson, Movement of Students for Progressive Leadership in UP (MOVE UP), UP Los Baños
60. Mr. Tristan Daine Zinampan, Chairperson, Linking Everyone Towards Service CDC (LETS CDC), College of Development Communication, UP Los Baños
61. Ms. Mary Ann Fuertes, Executive Director, Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (Davao City)
62. Atty. Arvin A. Jo, Focal Person, The Access Initiative – Philippines
63. Ms. April Lamentillo, Supremo, Sandigan ng mga Iskolar para sa Nagkakaisang CAS (SINAG CAS), College of Arts and Sciences, UP Los Baños
64. Mr. Curt Russel Lopez Delfin, President, Metro Manila Alliance of Communication Students (MACS)
65. Mr. John Mark Salvador, President, Bagong Benilde, De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde
66. Mr. Van Battad, President, UP Sirkulo ng mga Kabataang Artista (SIKAT), UP Diliman
67. Ms. Luisa Lioanag, Bos Tsip-Tsip, UP Bukluran sa Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Buklod-Isip), UP Diliman
68. Ms. Starjoan Villanueva, Executive Director, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao
69. Mr. Joseph Purugganan, Coordinator, EU-ASEAN FTA Network
70. Ms. Patricza Torio, Tagapangulo, UP Lipunang Pangkasaysayan (LIKAS), UP Diliman
71. Ms. Marian Bahalla, Chairperson, Laban COC Party, College of Communication, Polytechnic University of the Philippines
72. Mr. Arjay Mercado, President, UP Economics Towards Consciousness (ETC), UP Diliman
73. Mr. Joshua Layog, Primer, Katipunan CHE, College of Human Ecology, UP Los Baños
74. Ms. Ema Escanilla, Speaker, UP People-Oriented Leadership in the Interest of Community Awareness (UP POLITICA), UP Diliman
75. Mr. Edward Dayog, President, UP Organization of Human Rights Advocates (OHRA), UP Diliman
76. Mr. JC Tejano, National Chairperson, Bukluran ng mga Progresibong Iskolar – UP System (BUKLURAN – UP SYSTEM)
77. Ms. Ara Tan, President, UP Kalipunan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Sosyolohiya (KMS), UP Diliman
78. Mr. Ace Ligsay, Chairperson, UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA), UP Diliman
79. Mr. Mickey Eva, President, Coalition for Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW Coalition)
80. Mr. Carlo Brolagda, Chairperson; Mr. Chris Alquizalas, Councilor, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (CSSPSC), UP Diliman / Convenors, FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)
81. Mr. Joshua Young, Chairperson, Bigkis ng mga Iskolar Para sa Bayan Tungo sa Makabuluhang Pagbabago – UPM (BIGKIS-UPM), UP Manila
82. Mr. Viko Fumar, President, BUKLOD CSSP, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, UP Diliman
83. Julliano Fernando A. Guiang, Councilor, University Student Council, UP Diliman
Convenor, Disclose All Records (DARe) Movement
84. Mr. Deg Daupan, President, Alternatibong Katipunan ng mga Mag-aaral (AKMA), UP Baguio
85. Mr. Walter Tamayo, History Department Representative, AngKAS (CSSP History Department Core Group), UP Diliman
86. Mr. Gio Alejo, President, Sanggunian ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, Ateneo de Manila University
87. Mr. Jose Valencia, President, KASAPI Kaisahan ng Migranteng Manggagawa sa Gresya
88. Mr. Lejun Dela Cruz, Acting Chairperson, Alab Katipunan
89. Aurora A. Regalado, Managing Trustee, Management and Organizational Development for Empowerment (MODE)
90. Mr. Renato Dela Cruz, President, Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA)
91. Mr. Walter Balane, President, Bukidnon Press Club
92. Ms. Sylvia Paraguya, Chief Executive, National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO)
93. Mr. Pete Pinlac, Chairperson, Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya
94. Mr. Pablo Rosales, Chairperson, Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda
95. Mr. Boy Alban, Chairperson, League of Urban Poor for Action
96. Mr. Jun Pascual, Acting Chairperson, Pambansang Katipunan ng Makabayang Magbubukid
97. Ms. Edeliza Hernandez, Executive Director, Medical Action Group
98. Dr. Renato G. Mabunga, Chairperson, Human Rights Defenders – Pilipinas
99. Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Coordinating Committee Member, Faith-based Congress Against Immoral Debts
100. Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, Co-chairperson, Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines
101. Mr. Acmad Maruhom-Macatimbol, Executive Director, Lanao Alliance of Human Rights Advocates
102. Ms. Jennifer Julia Lacaba, President, Animal Concerns and Awareness Club (AC2), University of the Philippines – Visayas Tacloban College
103. Mr. Xander Losaria, Secretary General, SENTRO – La Salle, De La Salle University – Dasmariñas
104. Mr. Wilson Fortaleza, Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamumuhay
105. Prof. Flordeliz L. Abanto, Broadcast Journalism Coordinator, St. Scholastica’s College, Manila
106. Prof. Nelson J. Celis, AES (Automated Election System) Watch
107. Prof. Angelina E. Borican, Journalism Professor, College of Communications
Polytechnic University of the Philippines
108. Philippines Communication Society (PCS)
https://www.facebook.com/notes/jenina-joy-chavez/right-to-know-right-now-statement/10151261732759472

[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!

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] 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

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.

[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

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] 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.

[People] Malacañang on cybercrime and FOI: An ideological connection? by Prof. Walden Bello

Malacañang on cybercrime and FOI: An ideological connection?

By Walden Bello
Inquirer.net

October 7, 2012

It could have remained Sotto’s Folly, the cybercrime law with the controversial libel provision that Senator Vicente Sotto III inserted during the Senate deliberations on the bill.

But with the president strongly standing by his signing it into law, the bill has now become P-noy’s Cyberfolly. He could have said, I made a mistake, and I’m open to amending it, like Senators Edgardo Angara and Francis Escudero did. But he chose to draw a line in the sand and say here I stand.

A flawed law

I belong to the same coalition led by the president, but I have to differ with him on this issue. Let me state very simply the reasons why.

First of all, instead of decriminalizing libel, as so many legal and constitutional experts have strongly suggested, the law extends it to the cyberspace, thanks to the sly maneuver of that plagiarist Tito Sotto and the somnambulistic behavior of most senators and the members of the Senate-House bicameral committee.

Second, the libel law is invoked for a totally inappropriate context. There are editorial controls that operate when it comes to the established media. These professional restraints are not available on the Internet and social media, which promote and facilitate the expression of individual opinion in its most spontaneous forms. The Internet is the premium arena for free speech, where people should be able to express themselves without fear. This does not mean that there are no checks on information and opinion, as Senator Angara claimed when he said without the cybercrime law, the Internet would be the “Wild West.” Opinions expressed on the Internet are taken provisionally by most users, who only get convinced of the truth of an allegation after the flurry of exchanges on the net. The allegation that Senator Sotto is vehemently against the RH Bill because he wants to be the ambassador to the Vatican can be easily proven to be false via the Internet’s self-policing via research-based exchange, just as the allegation that he is a shameless plagiarist can be easily proven true by the same process.

Third, there is absolutely no basis for the provision that makes the penalty for cybercrime, including libel, one degree higher than is provided for in the Revised Penal Code.

There are other disturbing provisions, such as Section 19, which would authorize the Department of Justice to issue an order to take down a website simply on assessment that it is engaged in prima facie violations of the provisions of the cybercrime law.

This power is too broad and can easily be abused.

Why the President’s solution is no solution

Amending the law is obviously the way to go, one that would be strengthened should the Supreme Court find the law unconstitutional. But the President has refused to entertain this route, offering instead to reduce penalties for internet libel.

President Aquino’s offer, however, is no solution at all since the problem is the insertion of the libel provision itself. This is not only against free speech and thus unconstitutional, but it will have a chilling effect on Internet traffic. To reiterate, people should have be able to call Sotto a plagiarist, Vice President Binay a power-hungry politician, Erap a clown, the President a paternalistic elitist, Senator Enrile an unprincipled power broker, and Senator Trillanes an agent of China without fear of being slapped with a libel suit the next day. Let the Internet process of reply and counter-reply based on the use of evidence and counterevidence resolve the issue. This process, after all, has been found effective in producing the best and most balanced encyclopedia around, Wikipedia. And believe me, most Internet users are hardened skeptics: they won’t fall for claims that have the slightest whiff of falsehood about them, though there are, of course, always a few exceptions.

My main concern here, however, is to raise the possible connection between the President’s standing firm on cyberlibel and Malacanang’s lack of enthusiasm for the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI), which incidentally P-noy promised to prioritize during his campaign for the presidency. The cybercrime law effectively restricts freedom of expression. FOI is an enabling law that would facilitate freedom of expression by institutionalizing access to government information that would otherwise remain under wraps.

Bad advice or ideological stance?

Some say that Malacanang’s attitude to both bills reflects a wariness of both established and social media. When I asked him why Malacanang did not make FOI a priority, one Palace official, without invoking confidentiality, told me flat out that the Palace had problems with the bill because “the press already has too much power.” This person might have merited an A+ for frankness but an F on free speech and freedom of information, which are among the pillars of a democracy.

How much of Malacanang’s lack of support for FOI stems from the President himself? And was it the President himself who insisted on standing firm on the libel provision? Or did his stand on both issues come mainly from bad advice?

I certainly hope it is the latter, for that would mean there is a greater possibility of a retreat on the Cybercrime Prevention Act and regaining momentum on FOI. But if it is a case of an ideological position—that is a conservative, elitist stance on free speech and transparency issues—then this is truly disturbing. For the success of the governance reforms, like the anti-corruption campaign, that the President is now promoting, cannot ultimately be separated from the expansion of free speech and deepening of transparency.

Walden Bello represents the party-list Akbayan in the House of Representatives.

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

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.

[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

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] 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

[From the web] What’s in the Palace version of the FOI bill? – RAPPLER.com

What’s in the Palace version of the FOI bill? – RAPPLER – Philippine News | Multimedia | Citizen Journalism | Social Media.

by RAPPLER.COM

February 3, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – Here are some things you need to know about the proposed version of the Freedom of Information bill, sent by Malacañang to the House of Representatives on Thursday.

This FAQ is based on the “Q & A” from http://www.gov.ph/foi.

Who can request for information, and what can be requested? Anyone who is a Filipino citizen can ask information about official acts, transactions, decisions, and government research data from all government agencies in all branches of government.

What information shall be kept confidential by the government? However, certain information, such as “Secret” documents, minutes of executive sessions, and sensitive information (such as defense and intelligence information) shall be excluded and will remain classified. Details are under Section 6 of the bill.

What’s different in the Palace version of the bill? The Palace version of the FOI bill has the following:

  • Expanded access to financial information, such as Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs), and other kinds of information regarding government transactions
  • Collation of legislative acts, executive and administrative orders, proclamations, and similar information in one website, the Official Gazette
  • Government agencies will be asked to translate information in major Filipino languages
  • All agencies and entities will have a “Freedom of Information Manual” to guide officials, employees, and the public

Read full article @ www.rappler.com

« Older Entries