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Freedom of Information Law

Congress still needs to pass FOI law despite EO, Senator says

Freedom of Information Law
Freedom of Information Law

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sonny Angara has stressed that the Congress should still prioritize the passage of a Freedom of Information (FOI) law despite the plans of the Duterte administration to issue this week an executive order that would enforce FOI within the executive branch.
“President Duterte should be congratulated for implementing these very important rules on transparency. He is walking his talk. This shouldn’t, however, stop Congress from passing a comprehensive law that will cover all branches of government, including the legislative and the judiciary,” said Angara, who has filed anew an FOI bill among his top priority measures.
The FOI bill mandates all government agencies to make available to the public for scrutiny, copying and reproduction all information pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as government research data used as basis for policy development.
The proposed measure, however, provides for some exemptions including information that: directly relates to national security or defense; pertains to foreign affairs that would seriously jeopardize the diplomatic relations of the Philippines if revealed; were obtained in executive session; pertains to personal information that would clearly constitute an unwarranted invasion of one’s privacy if disclosed; pertains to trade secrets; and, were classified as privileged communications in legal proceedings.
Angara, who has been pushing for the enactment of FOI since his days in Congress, pointed out that the biggest challenge for FOI champions is convincing the grassroots that it is a much-needed measure.
“How do we convince a person living in a far-flung area, which has no Internet access, that a piece of information would make his life better. That’s the fundamental challenge we have.
“Hindi kasi nakikita at naiintindihan ng pangkaraniwang mamamayan yung importansya, kung paano makatutulong sa kaniya yung impormasyon. Kung maraming perang kinukurakot sa gobyerno, edi mas kaunti ang nagagastos para sa publiko. Yung impormasyon pwede iyon gamiting sandata panlaban sa mga tiwali sa gobyerno,” he added.
Nevertheless, Angara expressed optimism that Congress will pass the FOI especially with the support of the President.
“The Philippines is one of the first democracies and yet, ironically, we’re not one of the first to have an FOI. We need an FOI law to deepen our democracy and further promote transparency in the country,” he said.

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.