MANILA — Change.org, the umbrella organization pushing for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill on Wednesday said they have achieved the expected number of supporters in their initial launching of signature campaign using online and social media as the medium to cover not only the Philippines but Filipinos presently working across the globe.
Malou Mangahas, one of the convenors told attendees at the launching at Balay Kalinaw at the University of the Philippines that the expected number for the initial campaign even exceeded their expectation as other organizations that believes in this cause signed.
“This gave us high hopes that the time for the realization of an FOI law has come. But with only a little more than two years remaining in the term of President Aquino, and with the Presidential elections just around the corner, the FOI Bill remains pending at the Committee level at the House of Representatives,” she said.
She stressed that “we need a law that will give life to the right of citizens to request and be given access to government information beyond what government chooses to disclose proactively.”
An FOI law responds to this by clarifying the scope of and exceptions to available information, by providing the definite procedure for requesting and being given access to information, and by imposing administrative or criminal liability for the violation of a citizen’s right to information.
“With time running out, we invite you to join us in expressing our collective clamor for President Aquino and Speaker Belmonte to exercise leadership and act decisively to pass the FOI Bill. Sign on to this letter, and invite your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. We will deliver the letter with our signatures to President Aquino and Speaker Belmonte one week before the President’s State of the Nation Address in July,” she pointed out.
Representatives Teddy Baguilat (Ifugao), Kaka Bag-ao (Dinagat Islands), Winston Castelo (Quezon City) and Roman Romulo (Pasig City) shows support to the cause as they gave their individual inspiring message.
Baguilat, who has revealed that this cause is one of his advocacies since he was then a student leader, said he had waited for so long as he feels that his dream will come true.
“I am optimistic that in the 16th Congress, we can pass the measure as promised by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.,” Baguilat told reporters at the sidelines of the launching.
“The Right to Reply Bill will be treated as a separate bill. Hindi siya dapat makagulo sa FOI,” Bag-ao told reporters in a separate interview claiming that their timeline for the passage of the bill is the middle of 2015.
She added that the ideal timeline to pass the law is before the end of 2nd regular session saying that the last regular session will be concentrated for the 2016 budget.
For his part, Castelo claimed that he will push for more active information dissemination at the grass root level to make people aware of the importance of FOI.