Freedom of information advocates want Aquino to make FOI bill a priority
Members of the Right to Know Right Now Coalition on Friday urged President Benigno Aquino III to name the Freedom of Information Act a priority bill in his third State of the Nation Address.
The coalition has sent several letters requesting the President’s endorsement of the bill, including an open letter signed by advocates from over 40 countries, but has yet to receive a reply.
“Sa SONA naming hihintayin ang kanyang sagot,” Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said.
The international community is also watching closely whether the President will mention the FOI bill in his SONA, said Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan, the coalition’s lead convenor.
If passed, Senate Bill 3208 will give the public easier access to government documents. It reached the Senate plenary in early June while similar bills were stuck in committee deliberations in the House of Representatives.
House committee on public information chair Rep. Ben Evardone earlier said they are still harmonizing 15 versions of the FOI bill and promised to tackle it after the President’s SONA next Monday.
Malacañang on the other hand said in earlier reports that the Palace version of the bill has been finalized and sent to Congress.
Stop lip service
“Panahon na para tigilan ang lip service lang,” Elso Cabangon of the Filipino Migrant Workers Group said. “Kung hindi pa mapasa sa Kongresong ito, sasama na kami sa malawakang people’s mobilization,” he said.
Malaluan said the coalition has high expectations of the Aquino administration. Aquino won in the May 2010 with a campaign platform centered on eradicating corruption.
Annie Geron, of the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, added that a Freedom for Information Law should be the backbone of the president's "Tuwid na Daan" policy.
“The Philippines remains the only member of the Open Government Partnership Steering Committee without a Freedom of Information Law,” said Vincent T. Lazatin, executive director of Transparency and Accountability Network and a member of the Coalition.
Lead convenor Malaluan said the Philippines plays a leadership position in the Open Government Partnership, a global effort to promote transparency and accountability in governments.
The partnership has eight original signatories, one of which was the Philippines. — AE/VS, GMA News
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