The Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, jointly with the Committee on Civil Service and Government Reorganization, submitted its committee report to the Senate on the various measures on the people’s right to information. Committee Report No. 534 recommends the passage of Senate Bill 3308, or the Freedom of Information Act of 2009, which substitutes all pending measures after considering the views of government and non-government stakeholders in committee hearings and technical working group meetings.

Senate Bill 3308, along with House Bill 3732 passed by the House of Representatives in May 2008, addresses the many legal loopholes that have allowed government agencies to openly disregard the people’s right to information enshrined in Section 7, Article III of the Constitution. Under the Senate version, government agencies are mandated to grant requests for access to information within seven calendar days from receipt of the request. A request may be denied only when the agency can show that the information falls squarely among a limited list of exceptions.

The proposed law also provides the implementing legislation for the state policy of full disclosure of all transactions involving public interest. The bill lists a number of transactions, such as loans, concession agreements, contracts, treaties, and other similar transactions of high public interest, to be automatically disclosed to the public by government agencies without need of request or demand. Failure to grant a request without a valid legal ground under the proposed law, or failure to make the mandatory disclosure of the listed transactions, open the government personnel or official concerned to administrative and criminal liability.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Chairman of the Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, appealed to his colleagues in the Senate to approve the bill. “We need to make the bold move now of passing a Freedom of Information Act that will pave the way for broad and free access by citizens of information held by government. This Act will empower Filipinos to effectively participate in the fight against corruption and in the struggle for better and more responsive government policies.” Cayetano said.

Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan, co-convenor of the Access to Information Network (ATIN) and the Right to Know. Right Now! campaign, welcomed the submission of the Committee report and expressed their full support of Senate Bill 3308. “The lack of legislation on the right to information has grave consequences for the country. The resulting overall lack of transparency in government has impeded the country’s development as it relates directly to the persistence of rampant corruption and to the ineffectiveness of government policies. If passed, the proposed Freedom of Information Act will profoundly change the landscape of access to information. Government officials and employees will not anymore find it easy to ride roughshod over our right to information.” Malaluan said.

Representative Lorenzo Tañada III who played a key role in the early passage of House Bill 3732 in the Lower House, emphasized the importance of immediate action by the Senate. “The passage of the Senate version needs to be done as quickly as possible, considering that it may have to go through the bicameral conference committee, and considering as well the complications that could arise from the moves to convene Congress into a constituent assembly. It will be a tragedy if the passage of this law, long overdue, will be sidetracked by political developments driven by selfish motives.” Tañada said.

Various groups comprising the Right to Know. Right Now! campaign vowed to intensify their advocacy for the immediate passage of Senate Bill 3008. The group appealed to each Senator’s commitment to democracy, transparency and accountability in government, and respect for human rights, and expressed hope that none of them will work to water down or to block the passage of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Access to Information Network (ATIN) is composed of organizations involved in public interest work in the fields of media freedom, development, governance and law. ATIN’s work includes pushing for the passage of a Freedom of Information Act; opposing measures that abridge the right to information; and fostering greater public awareness of the right to information. The members of ATIN are the Action for Economic Reforms, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communications, Ateneo Debate Society, Ateneo School of Government, Center for Community Journalism & Development, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Lawyers League for Liberty (LIBERTAS), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Pagbabago@ Pilipinas, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and Transparency and Accountability Network.

The Right to Know. Right Now! campaign is endorsed by the following organizations: Access to Information Network, Alliance of Progressive Labor, Center for Migrant Advocacy, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Community Organizers Multiversity, EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network-Philippines, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Freedom from Debt Coalition, IDEALS, Inc., Institute for Popular Democracy, La Liga Policy Institute, Labor Education and Research Network, Lady Local Legislators’ League of the Philippines, Inc., Luzon, University of the Philippines – Law Student Government, Makati Business Club, Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation, Siliman University – ASPAP, Southern Luzon State University ASPAP – Region IV, Team RP, Social Watch Philippines, Women’s Legal Bureau, Inc.

1 Response to Freedom of Information Act ready for Senate action


jose mikel

June 5th, 2009 at 11:35 am

I think Inquirer Mindanao correspondent Julie Alipala was banned by military officials from entering military camps because she hit a very sensitive part of the controlling structures of our nation- The American controlling structure. That was when she inquired about the presence of US military personnel in Mindanao. That is the reality which many of us Filipinos either fail to see or refuse to see. American invasion and occupation in 1899 against our newly born nation of 1898, is still ongoing today. This reality has yet to be settled not by anybody but us.

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