CAGAYAN DE ORO City, July 23, 2012—The immediate passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) law is the cement that will strengthen the cornerstone of the Aquino administration’s journey in the matuwid na daan, the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition said in a statement.
As the President delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) later today, the coalition, along with more than 80 organizations and hundreds of individuals, strongly urged Mr. Aquino to specifically mention the immediate passage of the FOI bill as his administration’s priority legislative measure.
“The challenge to President Aquino’s program of daang matuwid is how to institutionalize and make it uniformly observed at all levels of government, so that it becomes irreversible even beyond his term. Passing the FOI law now will strongly reinforce public confidence that the President is keeping true to his mandate of change and to his marching orders to transform our government,” said lawyer Nepo Malaluan, co-convenor of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition in a statement.
As a member of the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multilateral initiative led by the United States that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance, the Philippines is obligated to pass the FOI,
In remaining for so long without a right to information law, the Philippines is failing to respect its role, as a Steering Committee member of the Open Government Partnership, to show leadership by example for OGP in terms of domestic commitments, stressed more than 70 organizations in a July 19 letter to President Aquino through Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad and Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.
The Philippines was one of the eight countries that composed the original Steering Committee members of OGP, together with theUnited States, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. When the OGP was formally launched in September 2011, the Philippines and Brazil were the only two Steering Committee members without an FOI law. However, Brazil passed its FOI law shortly thereafter, leaving the Philippines as the only original Steering Committee member that does not have an FOI law.
As member of the OGP Steering Committee, “it is incumbent on the Philippines to adopt right now the information legislation,” the international groups said in the letter.
“We had cause to believe that legislation on this core democratic issue would be adopted when you were elected, in part on a platform of transparency, anti-corruption and good governance. Our hope was renewed when you announced your endorsement of the bill in January 2012. However, the bill has still not been passed, and we are concerned that time is starting to run out on the 15th Congress,” the groups added.
The FOI passed bicameral conference committee but Congress, under then House Speaker Prospero Nograles failed to adopt it during the 14th Congress.
“One of the core commitments of the OGP, set out in the OGP’s Declaration of Principles, is to increase the availability of information about governmental activities. As the Declaration states, governments collect and hold information on behalf of people, and citizens have a right to seek information about governmental activities. This clearly requires the adoption of right to information legislation,” the groups explained.
Malaluan said that the passage of the FOI “is now a matter of political will on the part of the President and the leaders and members of Congress.”
To intensify the campaign for the passage of the FOI, the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition is urging ordinary citizens to get actively involved by using their mobile phones and online platforms to voice their support and demand for its passage. (Bong D. Fabe)
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