Legacy or ignominy

Will Speaker Nograles and his House ratify the Freedom of Information Bill?

When the leaders of the House of Representatives want a measure passed, we have seen them find a way. But when they want a measure aborted, they simply stay away and quibble about the absence of quorum.

For 14 years, the 160 member-organizations of the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition have waged, separately and together, an advocacy campaign for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act. We have done so in good faith, in the most positive and trustful manner, and with all due respect to the members of Congress who swore to serve the people, by the Constitution and the laws of the land.

Even now, we thank Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr., the legislators who authored and passed the Freedom of Information Act, and all the members of the 14th Congress, for taking the bill to its farthest, an accomplishment that previous Congresses had all failed to achieve.

Today, the Freedom of Information Act hangs on the precipice, and the leaders of the House, on the threshold of either making history or being cast aside to its dustbin.

In the last two weeks, the people have been offered promise after promise to ratify the Fredom of Information Act.

  • On February 2, 2010, copies of the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the FOI scheduled for distribution to the House members suddenly went missing at the session hall.
  • On February 3, the House Floorleader, after moving to defer the calling of the roll, proceeded to secure the House members’ concurrence vote for no less than 15 Senate bills, and one conference committee report. However, the FOI conference committee report was conveniently left out. A congressman who sought a copy of the FOI Act was told by House officials that the instruction from the office of the House Secretary General was to “hold distribution” of the copies that day, the last day before the Congress adjourned for the election campaign season.
  • On May 24, the House leadership implored proponents of the bill to withdraw their motion to ratify the conference committee report after the Speaker and the Majority and Minority leaders declared their commitment to enroll it on the agenda of the House on May 31.
  • But on May 31, Speaker Nograles opened the session and the Majority Floorleader moved to suspend session until June 4, for the closing of the 14th Congress. In 10 seconds flat, they opened and closed the session, ignoring motions from proponents of the bill to ratify the FOI Act. The proponents led by Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante Jr., chair of the House committee on public information, had wanted to raise a point of order but the House leaders simply ignored them. In truth, the proponents were muzzled and gagged – the microphones on the floor were turned off.

The fate of the Freedom of Information Act is in peril of being hostage to the whims and fancies of the House leadership. In media interviews, Speaker Nograles has declared that the FOI Act – or what he calls “the foie gras bill” that he, in fact, co-authored – remains “my priority” and that the House will take it up today, supposedly the last session day of the 14th Congress.

Today, the truth or falsity of his avowed commitment to ratify the Freedom of Information Act, will be known.  He can yet prove skeptics wrong.

If the Speaker chooses not to live up to his commitment, the Freedom of Information Act dies today; if he proves true to his words, it will live and be ratified, at last.

And well it should. The right to know is an inalienable right of the people that has been firmly guaranteed by the Constitution since 23 years ago. Enshrined in the Bill of Right, it is indispensable to the exercise of the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, economic and political decision-making.

The Freedom of Information Act fills the legal gaps that have made our constitutional right to information practically inoperable. It provides standard and definite procedures in dealing with requests for information. It clearly defines a narrow list of exceptions, carefully balancing the public interest in securing the widest availability of information while recognizing the public interest in withholding certain information identified in the bill. It secures for citizens concurrent remedies in cases of denial of access to information.

Where a denial is illegal, the citizen concerned may also file the appropriate criminal or administrative complaint. It provides for the public disclosure, without need of request from anyone, of important government transactions. It introduces numerous mechanisms for the active promotion of openness in government.

The Filipino people need and truly deserve this law. It is a demand of the times, a vote for transparency, democratic participation, accountability and good governance. It will empower both the people and their leaders to plant the seeds of strategic governance reforms and start the process of renewal for Philippine institutions.

We take this opportunity to thank Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Juan Miguel Zubiri for shepherding the bill through the tedious legislative process in the Senate.

We express most especially our gratitude and salute to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for leading the Senators in completing the necessary Senate actions for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act. The Senate was in turmoil at the time when the session was about to adjourn in February, yet still it managed to fulfill its legislative commitments.

Last May 31, the Senate passed a resolution urging the House of Representatives to act on the FOI Act conference committee report before the 14th Congress adjourns sine die. This is clear testimony to the leadership of Senate President Enrile and the sense of duty to people and country of our Senators.

Today, we ask that Speaker Nograles and the House members show proof that they measure up to the same standards. Indeed today, by their choices they will be judged. And they have only two: Legacy or Ignominy.

They have now a historic opportunity to fulfill their constitutional duty to provide an essential law that will secure for the nation the full functioning of their constituents’ right to information.

Recognizing that the duty of the state to enforce a policy of full disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest is the hallmark of good governance, there are already more than 80 governments around the world that have adopted a Freedom of Information Act. The passage today of the Freedom of Information Act would be a testament to our maturity as a nation, which is vaunted to be the exemplar of democracy in Asia.

The people of the Philippines are claiming their constitutional right to access to information on matters of public concern. The bicameral conference committee has reconciled the House and Senate versions of the FOI bill. There should be no obstacle to ratifying this bill.

Today, Speaker Nograles and his House will face the judgment of history. Will they be judged as a Congress with a legacy of honor or of ignominy?

In truth, for reasons other than the public interest, they can delay the Freedom of Information Act but not ever defeat it. The people’s right to know springs forth from our democracy; it will endure.

Right to Know. Right Now!


  1. Bishop Broderick Pabillo
    Auxillary Bishop, Manila; National Director of CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action Justice&Peace (NASSA-JP)
  2. Atty. Wigberto Tañada
    Senator, 1987-1995
  3. Dr. Wilfrido V. Villacorta
    Member,Constitutional Commission; Author of Right to Information on Matters of Public Concern (Art. III, Sec.7, 1987 Constitution)
  4. Dr. Florangel Rosario
    Braid Member, Constitutional Commission and Chair, Communication, UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines
  5. Mr. Vincent T. Lazatin
    Transparency and Accountability Network
  6. Ms. Malou Mangahas
    Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
  7. Ms. Adelina Alvarez
    Mr. Red Batario
    Center for Community Journalism and Development
  8. Atty. Roberto Cadiz
  9. Prof. Luis Teodoro
    Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
  10. Ms. Jenina Joy Chavez
    Focus on the Global South – Philippines Programme
  11. Mr. Sonny Fernandez
    Mr. Nestor Burgos
    Ms. Rowena Paraan
    National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
  12. Mr. Alberto Lim
    Makati Business Club
  13. Ms. Teresita Ang See
    Citizens Action Against Crime
  14. Mr. Joshua Mata
    Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
  15. Ms. Yuen Abana
    Partido ng Mangagawa
  16. Ms. Precy Bellomes
  17. Mr. Teody Navea
    Mr. Gem de Guzman
    Bukluran ng Mangagawang Pilipino (BMP)
  18. Atty. Byron Bocar
  19. Ms. Judy Pasimio
    Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasan
  20. Ms. Starjoan Villanueva
    Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM)
  21. Dean Antonio La Viña
    Ateneo School of Government (ASoG)
  22. Dr. Sixto K. Roxas
    Maximo T. Kalaw Institute for Sustainable Development
  23. Mr. Isagani Serrano
    Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
  24. Mr. Joseph Purugganan
    EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network-Philippines; Stop the New Round Coalition
  25. Mr. Al Alegre
    Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA)
  26. Ms. Annie Geron
    Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)
  27. Prof. Leonor M. Briones
    Social Watch Philippines
  28. Dr. Rene Ofreneo
    Center for Labor Justice
  29. Dr. J. Prospero De Vera III
    National College of Public Administration and Governance
  30. Atty. Tanya Lat
  31. Mr. Raul Socrates Banzuela
  32. Chester Amparo
    Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD)
  33. Mr. Pete Pinlac
    Mangagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN)
  34. Mr. Ramon Tuazon
    Philippines Communication Society
  35. Ms. Mae V. Buenaventura
    Women’s Legal Bureau, Inc.
  36. Ms. Ana Maria R. Nemenzo
    WomanHealth Philippines
  37. Ms. Mercedes Fabros
    WomanHealth Philippines
  38. Mr. Sixto Donato Macasaet
  39. Mr. Jun S. Aguilar
    Filipino Migrant Workers
  40. Mr. Pablo Rosales
    Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda (PANGISDA); Pambansang Katipunan ng Makabayang Magbubukid (PKMM)
  41. Mr. Crispino Aguelo
    Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)
  42. Ms. Karen Tañada
    Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute
  43. Atty.Eirene Jhone E. Aguila
    Team RP
  44. Prof. Gigi Francisco
    Development Alternatives for Women in the New Era (DAWN)
  45. Mr. Byron Abadeza
    Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific
  46. Mr. Abby Y. Pato
    Task Force on Food Sovereignty Mindanao
  47. Ms. Carolyn Arguillas
  48. Mr. Abner Francisco
    DXCA – FM
  49. Mr. Rey Hulog
    Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas
  50. Mr. Jose Pavia
    Philippine Press Institute
  51. Ms. Angelica Simone Mangahas
    Ateneo Debate Society
  52. Mr. Bartholome Guingona
  53. Atty. Virginia S. Jose
    Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC)
  54. Ms. Ellene Sana
    Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA)
  55. Ms. Ester Perez Tagle
    Concerned Citizens Against Pollution (COCAP)
  56. Ms. Luz Malihiran
    Community Organizers Multiversity
  57. Mr. Milo Tanchuling
    Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
  58. Mr. Jude Esguerra
    Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD)
  59. Mr. Doy Cinco
    Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD)
  60. Mr. Ric Serrano
    La Liga Policy Institute
  61. Mr. Roland Cabigas
    Mr. Rey Rasing Labor
    Education and Research Network (LEARN)
  62. Atty. Farah Marie Decano
    Lady Local Legislators’ League of the Philippines, Inc.
  63. Mr. Raymond Marvic
    Baguilat UP Law Student Government
  64. Mr. Ed Mora
    Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas
  65. Prof. Carlos Magtolis, Jr.
    Siliman University – ASPAP
  66. Ms. Evi-Ta Jimenez
    Center for People Empowerment in Governance
  67. Mr. Ben-Hur Sacopla
    Southern Luzon State University ASPAP – Region IV
  68. Dr. Buenaventura B. Dargantes
    Program on Integrated Water Resources
  69. Mr. Boy Nuera
    Pandayan para sa Sosyalistang Pilipinas (PANDAYAN)
  70. Mr. Roy Calfoforo
    People’s Alternative Studies Center for Research and Education in Social Develoment (PASCRES)
  71. Mr. Alain Pascua
    Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan All Filipino Democratic Movement (KAAKBAY)
  72. Mr. Reggie Guillen
  73. Mr. Horacio T. Cadiz
    The Philippine Network Foundation, Inc (PHNET)
  74. Mr. Joe Valencia
  75. Mr. Nestor Villanueva
    Akbayan Greece
  76. Ms. Mardi Mapa-Suplido
    Negros Peace Watch
  77. Dr. Jose Reuben
    Alagaran Philippines Communication Society
  78. Ms. Aurora Regalado
    Management Organization for Development and Empowerment
  79. Mr. Ernesto Lim Jr.
    People’s Campaign on Agrarian Reform (AR NOW!)
  80. Mr. Anthony Marzan
  81. Mr. Nonoy Oplas
    Minimal Government Thinkers
  82. Mr. Jesus Vicente Garganera
    Alyansa Tigil Mina
  83. Ms. Luz Cabucos-Fegarido
  84. Ms. Ma. Lourdes M. Tison
    Paghiliusa sa Paghidaet-Negros (PsPN)
  85. Ms. Trinidad Domingo
    Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan
  86. Mr. Richard Gutierrez
    Ban Toxics
  87. Mr. Harvey Keh
    Kaya Natin! Movement
  88. Mr. Czarina Sacaguing
    Confederation of Student Government in the Philippines
  89. Dr. Ma. Olivia Domingo
    Center for Leadership, Citizenship and Democracy, UP NCPAG
  90. Dr. Angelo Ramos
    Philippine Community e-Center Network
  91. Ms. Mae Sabio Sulong
  92. Mr. Diosdado Calmada
  93. Ms. Lanie Factor
    Task Force Mapalad
  94. Ms. Maris Dela Cruz – Cardenas
    EmPOWER Consumers
  95. Atty. Elpidio Peria
    Third World Network; Vice Chairman, Social Concerns Committee, IBP South Cotabato – General Santos City
  96. Mr. Angelito R. Mendoza
    Coalition for Health Advocacy and Transparency
  97. Mr. Omi Royandoyan
    Centro Saka
  98. Ms. Florencia Casanova-Dorotan
    Women’s Action Network for Development
  99. Ms. Violeta Corral
    Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan
  100. Ms. Michelle Domocol
    Visayas Climate Action Network
  101. Judge Dolores L. Español (Ret.)
    Transparency International – Philippines
  102. Mr. Roby Alampay
    Southeast Asian Press Alliance
  103. Ms. Teresita Quintos Deles
    International Center on Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov)
  104. Ms. Maita Gomez
    Bantay Kita
  105. College Editors Guild of the Philippines
  106. Ms. Emy M. Santos National
    Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO)
  107. Ms. Tes M. Borgoños
    Manggagawang Kababaihang Mithi ay Paglaya (MAKALAYA)
  108. Ms. Marilyn Fuentes
    National Union of Building and Construction Workers
  109. Atty. Michael Yu
    Integrated Bar of the Philippines- Cebu City Chapter
  110. Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio
    Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines
  111. Mr. Viktor Samuel Fontanilla
  112. Ms. Anna Luz Lopez
  113. Mr. Jeffrey Crisostomo
    AKBAYAN Youth – UP Diliman
  114. Ms. Susan Ople
    Blas Ople Foundation
  115. Mr. Romeo Cabugnasan
    Alyansa ng Maralitang Pilipino
  116. Mr. Gus Miclat
    Initiative for International Dialogue
  117. Mr. Antonio Claparols
    Ecological Society of the Philippines
  118. Mr. Javier Claparols
    Ecological Society of the Philippines
  119. Dr. Helen N. Mendoza
  120. Dr. Mario Joyo Aguja
    Mindanao State University System Faculty Federation
  121. Ms. Maria Rita Melecio
    Task Force Detainees of the Philippines – Davao
  122. Mr. Juanito Enriquez
    Civil Society Organization Forum for Peace
  123. Ms. Edeliza Hernandez
    Medical Action Group
  124. Ms. Laudica Casana Anda
    Rural Women Workers Alliance for Progress
  125. Ms. Flordeliz Abanto
    Philippine Association of Communication Educators Foundation, Inc. (PACE)
  126. Ms. Victoria M. Segovia
    Partnership for Clean Air
  127. Ms. Grace Chua
    Consumer Rights for Safe Food
  128. Ms. Noemi Tirona
    Network Opposed to GMOs
  129. Ms. Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz
    Ang Nars
  130. Mr. Manny C. Calonzo
    Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
  131. Atty. Solomon Lumba
    Institute for Freedom of Information
  132. Ms. Paula Mae B. Tanquieng
    Ayos na Gamot sa Abot-Kayang Presyo (AGAP)
  133. Ms. Annie M. Sandalo
    Code Foundation, Inc.
  134. Ed Caharian
    Philippine Agency for Community and Family
  135. Fr. Victor “Junvic” Diolata, Jr., SSS
    Co-Executive Secretary of AMRSP
  136. Fr. Jesus Malit, SSS
  137. Sr. Mary John Mannanzan, OSB
  138. Mr. Narciso Jover Jr.
    Tri-people Concern for Peace, Progress and Development of Mindanao (TRICOM)
  139. Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos
    Atty. Dante T. Ramos
    Phil. Earth Justice Center, Inc.
  140. Maria V. Mendoza
    Fair Trade Alliance – Philippines (FairTrade)
  141. Mr. Tirso N. Paglicawan, Jr.
    Kapisanan ng mga Kawani ng Koreo sa Pilipinas Mr. Dante Dean M. Barola (KKKP); Hukuman ng Mamamayan Movement, Inc.
  142. Mr. Manuel G. Rama
    PhilPost Rank-and-File Employees Association
  143. Ms. Marlene Ramirez
  144. Ms. Minerva Gonzales
    Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Asia
  145. Mr. Angelito Calderon
    Lakas Mangagawa Labor Center (LMLC)
  146. Ms. Ember Cruz
    Trade Advocates Group
  147. Ms. Mary Joycer Filomeno
    Youth Advocates for Economic Progress (YAEP)
  148. Ms. Eileen Matute Coconut
    Industry Reform Movement (COIR)
  149. Mr. David Diwa
    National Labor Union
  150. Mr. Angel Dimalanta
    Automotive Industry Workers Alliance
  151. Ms. Lia Jasmin Esquillo
    Interface Development Interventions
  152. Mr. Nazaño Cacayan
    Yamog Foundation
  153. Mr. Frank Meno
    Philippine Metalworkers Alliance (PMA)
  154. Mr. Eleuterio Tuazon
    Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions
  155. Mr. Ronaldo Tuazon
    Workers Welfare Watch – Philippines
  156. Mr. John Gamit
    Christian Life Community of the Philippines
  157. Mr. Manny Arias
    Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Mangagawa sa Pilipinas
  158. Ms. Romina Astrid Lim
    Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest Project
  159. Mr. Vince Cinches
    Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center Inc.
  160. Dr. Suzette H. Lazo, MD
  161. Mr. Roberto Versola
    Riedo Panaligan
    Philippine Greens
  162. Ms. Jessica Reyes-Cantos
    Rice Watch and Action Network
  163. Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan
    Action for Economic Reforms (AER)