MANILA –Malacañang on Wednesday lauded the House Committee on Public Information for approving the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, taking it a step closer towards its enactment into law.
“We laud the House Committee on Public Information, chaired by Representative Antonio Tinio, for approving the FOI Bill, an act that affirms the government’s social contract with the people,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“The FOI, long overdue, is an essential component of the President’s anti-corruption drive as it promotes greater transparency, openness and accountability in governance,” Abella said.
The passage of an FOI Bill is one of the priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte.
On July 23, 2016, or two days before he delivered his state of the nation address, Duterte signed an executive order mandating full public disclosure of all offices under the executive branch.
The historic EO covers “all government offices under the executive branch including, but not limited to, the national government and all its offices, departments, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities including government-owned and -controlled corporations, state universities and colleges.”
Local government units are also encouraged to “observe and be guided by this order.”
But while the signed EO is a landmark action in the long fight for FOI, advocates are pushing for its legislation in Congress since the measure only covers offices under the executive branch.
With the passage of the House version of the FOI bill Wednesday morning, lawmakers are hoping that the bill would be taken up in plenary the soonest time possible.
Tinio, of ACT Teachers Party-List, said that they are “working for the swift enactment into law of the FOI Bill, considering that this is one of the priorities of the Duterte administration.”
“We hope that, with the support of the House leadership, we will soon be able to take up the FOI bill in plenary,” Tinio added.
The FOI bill, which is a consolidation of 35 proposed measures, embodies the two aspects of the right to information as mandated by the 1987 Constitution — full public disclosure and citizens’ access to information.
The approved measure reiterates the Constitution’s mandate to disclose the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) of certain officials.
Public interest documents or records, such as contracts with the private sector and those which are budget-related, are required to be published by government agencies in their websites.
“The policy of full public disclosure is not fully fleshed out in our current laws. The FOI bill seeks to address that gap,” Tinio said.
The bill also mandates every citizen’s right to ask for and receive information from government, subject only to a limited number of exceptions.
The bill also sets the procedure of requesting for access to information and documents up to appeal in case of denial.Administrative and criminal liabilities for violation of the right to information will also be put in place through this measure.