“FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL” IS DEAD, BUT ITS CHAMPIONS PERSEVERE AND ACT!

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“FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL” IS DEAD, BUT ITS CHAMPIONS PERSEVERE AND ACT!

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boholano-thumbWho are to blame? On August  20, 2015 organizations and individuals pushing the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill to ensure the media and people’s access to government documentation in order to be fully informed and be empowered citizens declared: “The FOI Bill is dead. We put the blame squarely on President Aquino and the leadership of the House of Representatives.”

FOI champions explain. “From our years of campaigning for the passage of the FOI Act, this we know for certain: without decisive support from the President and the leadership of the House of Representatives, the bill will not pass. Benigno S. Aquino III led us to believe that it will be different under his administration. On at least two occasions before he took his oath as President, he promised that the passage of the FOI bill will be among his administration’s priorities. In 2011, his government also joined the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative led by the U.S. that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to scale up transparency, accountability and public participation. We thought that he would see the urgency of passing the FOI Bill as an essential condition for Daang Matuwid.” 

FOI champions conclude. “Aquino is turning out to be no better than his predecessor on FOI. Now entering into the final months of his term, the Philippines remains the only one of the eight founding members of OGP that has not enacted an FOI Act. For all his administration’s breast beating about transparency, President Aquino has not mustered the political will to honor his campaign pact with the people to assure the passage of FOI. xxx we have not seen credible proof of his personal push for the measure.”  The President lost his last SONA as a perfect opportunity to show his determination to pass the FOI and the House and the Senate also got the message.

FOI champions confide. “The Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition, in its more than 15 years of campaigning for the passage of the FOI Act, has held forums, issued statements, ran pooled editorials, participated actively in the legislative process, held mass actions, launched signature campaigns, held advocacy runs, filed its own bill by way of Indirect Initiative, pro-duced information materials, initiated dialogues, and coordinated work with allies in Congress and the executive. We confront the reality that our institutions, particularly the Presidency and Congress, are not ready to overcome their selfish fears and take the side of public interest on the issue of FOI.”

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Our fight lives on ! “While the FOI bill again meets its death in the hands of a President and a House leadership reluctant to redistribute power or too arrogant to heed our call, our fight for an effective, working, and living FOI, lives on. It may take a different form, emphasis and strategy, but its essence will remain the same: we assert the right to information as a fundamental mechanism in the struggle for a rights-based governance with greater transparency and account-ability, less corruption, broader and informed peoples participation, and development outcomes that are sustainable and just.”

Let’s practice Freedom of Information! “For us this fight will now take the road of FOI Practice. In the past year, the coalition has already been systematizing the coordination and documentation of experience in our information requests relating to our respective advocacies. We will scale this up to include administrative and judicial interventions to address the problems that we thought Congress, with decisive push from the President, would address though a comprehensive and progressive  legislation. In this fight we will also engage the constitutionally mandated independent accountability institutions, such as the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Audit, and the Ombudsman.

“Lastly, we will use FOI Practice to bring to the surface the real cause why our politicians have defaulted, copped out, or resisted the passage of the FOI Act all this time. As starting point, we are revisiting the 2007 to 2009 COA audit of PDAF. We demand that COA and the agencies that implemented the PDAF projects afford us access not just to the main audit report, but also to all the underlying paper trail to the transactions that COA has found anomalous, so that the people may fully see how we were defrauded of public funds.

FOI Organizations. Nepomuceno Malaluan, Co-Convener, Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition. Malou Mangahas, Executive Director, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Vincent Lazatin, Executive Director, Transparency and Acoountability Network. Annie Enriquez-Geron, President, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK). Melinda Quintos de Jesus, Executive Director, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. Josua Mata, Secretary General, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO). Eirene Jhone Aguila, Chairperson, Aksyong Kabayanihan para sa Organisadong Pagbabago (ANGKOP). Most Rev. Rolando J. Tria Tirona, OCD, DD, National Director, CBCP-Nassa. Sixto Donato C. Macasaet, Executive Director, Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO). Isagani R. Serrano, President, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement. Leonor M. Briones, Lead Convenor, Social Watch Philippines. Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, National Coordinator, Woman Health Philippines. Rene Magtubo, Chairperson, Partido ng Manggagawa. Max M. de Mesa, Chairperson, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA). Jenina Joy Chavez, Coordinator, Action for Economic Reforms – Industrial Policy Team. Gerry F. Rivera, President, PAL Employees Association (PALEA). Rowena C. Paraan, Chairperson, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines. Samuel Cesar Gamboa, Secretary General, Freedom from Debt Coalition. Joseph Purugganan, Philippine Program Coordinator, Focus on the Global South. Elso Cabangon, Filipino Migrant Workers Group. Norman Cabrera, President, Ang Kapatiran Party. Rolando Ocampo, Prudentialife Warriors Pilipinas, Inc. Ellene A. Sana, Executive Director, Center for Migrant Advocacy. Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator, Alyansa Tigil Mina. Aida F. Santos, President, Women’s Education, Development, Productivity & Research Organization (WeDpro), Inc., Red Batario, Executive Director; Adelina Sevilla Alvarez, Program Director, Center for Community Journalism and Development. Sonny Melencio, Chairperson, Partido Lakas ng Masa-PLM. Michael Cagulada, Executive Director, Group Foundation, Inc. (Cagayan de Oro City). Merci L. Angeles, President, Peace Women Partners, Inc. Corazon Fabros, o-Convener, STOP the War Coalition, Philippines. Ricardo Reyes, Katarungan.

FOI Individuals. Gregorio T. Mariano, Jr. Member, US Pinoys for Good Governance; Member, Global Filipino Nation. Floro R. Francisco, Regional Consultant (Asia), LO-Norway. Walter I. Balane, Chair, Piniyalan 2013-2016 Reporting Governance Project; Acting Station Manager, DXBU-Bukidnon State University radio; President, Bukidnon Press Club. Ma. Victoria R. Raquiza. Assistant Professor, National College of Public Administration and Governance, UP. Buenaventura B. Dargantes, Professor of Socio-ecology, Visayas State University. Dino Manrique, Member, #ScrapPork Network (SPN). Louie Checa Montemar, Faculty member, Political Science Department, De La Salle University. Ma. Aurora Quilala, National Advocacy Officer, PLCPD. Cesar Guarin, Convener, Takbo Na! Pilipinas. Clarissa V. Militante, Writer
Fr. Robert Reyes. Mercedes L. Fabros (By Jose “Pepe” Abueva)

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