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Legarda Welcomes EO on FOI, Files Counterpart Bill

July 25, 2016

Senator Loren Legarda has filed anew the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) Act even as President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an Executive Order (EO) that will provide the public full access to documents pertaining to government projects and related matters.

 

“I welcome President Duterte’s EO on the FOI. This proves his commitment to restoring the people’s faith in government by strengthening transparency and accountability in public service. But we have to ensure that this system of transparency will be institutionalized and exercised by all government offices—national and local, executive, legislative and the judiciary—and in succeeding administrations. Thus, I re-filed the FOI bill as part of my top 20 bills for this Congress,” said Legarda.

 

In the 16th Congress, Legarda was among the authors of the FOI Bill. It was approved on Third Reading in the Senate, but not in the House of Representatives. In the 17th Congress, the three-term senator filed the bill anew.

 

“The right to information is a constitutionally protected right under Article III, Section 7 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court even upheld the enforceability of this right. However, its effective implementation has, for the past two decades, suffered from the lack of the necessary substantive and procedural details that only Congress can provide,” she explained.

 

Legarda said that the FOI Bill under Senate Bill No. 248 fulfills the long overdue legislative obligation of Congress by putting in place the following major features:

 

  • An expansive scope in terms of government agencies as well as information covered. A narrow list of exceptions circumscribed by clearly stated public harm that we wish to avoid in withholding certain information;

 

  • An opportunity and the right for citizens to counterbalance and override a recognized exception when there is greater public interest in information disclosure;

 

  • A clear, uniform and speedy procedure for access to information;

 

  • A provision implementing automatic disclosure of transactions of public concern as required by Section 28, Article II of the Constitution;

 

  • A system of accessible and speedy remedies for a citizen whose access to information has been denied;

 

  • The institution of mechanisms to promote a culture of openness within government; and

 

  • The introduction of clear administrative, criminal and civil liability for the violation of the right to information.

 

“Freedom of information is an essential prerequisite for a modern democracy. Transparency in the public sector enables our people to engage in meaningful participation, promotes accountability, and mitigates corruption, which has long been a major obstacle to our development,” Legarda concluded.