Press Release
September 19, 2016


The right to information is a constitutionally guaranteed right. However the question is, are we at all times afforded this right?

Less than one month upon assumption to office, President Duterte signed an Executive Order (Executive Order No. 02, promulgated on July 23, 2016) operationalizing in the Executive Branch the people's constitutional right to information. Through this Executive Order, he mandated full public disclosure of all offices under him. He believes that transparency is the key to eliminate irregularities in our government.

In the Legislative branch, several versions of FOI Bill has been filed and re-filed since the 12th Congress. On the part of the Senate, thru the hard work of our Chairperson of the Committee on Public Information, Senator Grace Poe, we managed to pass our version of the FOI during the 16th Congress. Unfortunately, our counterpart in the House of Representatives failed to act on it.

We are here once again, back to square one.

As a legislator, I believe that it is my duty to push for the passage and implementation of the Freedom of Information Act in every sector of the government. To show my commitment to the public, the FOI bill is the FIRST bill I filed in the present Congress (Senate Bill No. 149).

We want to pass it immediately. However, we should make sure that the version that we will present to the public will be devoid of any irregularities that might hinder them from invoking their right to information. As such, I included the following in my version of the bill:

1. There shall be a legal presumption in favor of access to information. However, NO REQUEST FOR INFORMATION SHALL BE DENIED UNLESS it clearly falls under the exceptions in the FOI rule.

2. At no time shall exemptions be used to cover up a crime, wrongdoing, graft or corruption.

3. The MEASURE STIPULATES THAT THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY OF INDIVIDUALS SHALL ALWAYS BE PROTECTED. Government agencies shall protect personal information in its custody or under its control by making reasonable security arrangements against such risks as unauthorized access, collection, use, disclosure, or disposal.

4. PROCEDURE FOR FILING A REQUEST OF INFORMATION MUST BE SUBMITTED which will require government officials to act and/or comply within fifteen (l5) working days upon receipt of the request for information. There shall also be a system of remedies in case the request for FOI information is denied.

5. All government agencies must set-up their respective FOI-compliant web sites within two (2) years after the law takes effect, and likewise encourages them to make their websites user-friendly and understandable to the layman.

6. Lastly, this measure also provides a penal clause for GOVERNMENT OFFICERS WHO WILL VIOLATE THE FOI ACT. They WILL BE subjected to CRIMINAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE LIABILITY.

We hope that there will be no other delays in the passage of this Bill. FOI will not only prevent graft and corruption but most importantly it will help the people get involved and participate in running the affairs of the Government.

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