WHAT SECRET or secrets of the House of Representatives under Speaker Prospero Nograles would escape public scrutiny, amid Congress’s failed effort to ratify the Freedom of Information Act last Friday?
Many have asked that question after noting that Nograles himself had co-authored House Bill No. 3732, the lower chamber’s version of the FOI bill, which was authored by a full two-thirds or 181 of about 220 House members.
A DAY before the Freedom of Information Act was supposed to be taken up at the House of Representatives, Speaker Prospero Nograles told media that text messages and phone calls were being made to ensure that House members would attend Friday’s session for the ratification of the FOI 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, […]
THE URBAN poor evicted from their homes. The workers who were suddenly retrenched. The farmers who lost their land to a politician’s real estate firm. The indigenous peoples who were displaced by big mining projects. Journalists who were unable to pursue a big story after being denied access to supposedly public documents. And taxpayers who suspect that their money was being frittered away to corruption.
They are all stakeholders in the quest for full, correct and timely information.
They are all who should know all the data behind their problems and how and why these have happened and could affect their lives for the better or worse.
Accessing data and documents in government possession is the common obstacle that truth and rights seekers from the media, the poor and marginalized sectors and civil society groups have to grapple with, in the absence of a Freedom of Information law that would effectively and fully enforce the Constitution’s guarantees of public accountability and transparency, and the people’s right to know.
THE CLOCK is ticking fast, and the Senators are now facing judgment: Are they champions of the people’s right to know?
The Senators have only 23 session days left before they adjourn for the May 2010 elections to pass their version of the Freedom of Information Act, a law that has been promised 22 years ago by the 1987 Constitution.
As well, over the last eight years, a broad coalition of independent media and civil society groups has waged a relentless campaign to pass the law to help combat corruption, enforce government accountability, and empower the people.
WHEN U.S. federal authorities caught the family of Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia smuggling thick wads of dollar bills into the United States in 2003, reporters covering the defense beat scrambled for documents to check out the lifestyle of top officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
So in early 2004, defense reporters filed a request for the Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of Garcia and other officers with the AFP Public Information Office and the AFP’s Office of Ethical Standards and Public Accountability (OESPA).
THE PUBLIC’S right to information is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, but the absence of an enabling law has apparently enabled various government agencies and officials – including Supreme Court justices – to violate this.
Some agencies do know and observe the Constitution’s guarantee of transparency, which is a prior condition to good governance. Far too many others, however, seem stuck in confidentiality mode and require prodding and coaxing to release documents. The most hostile, in fact, simply flatly deny or altogether ignore requests for public documents.
THREE QUESTIONS would be left unanswered should the Supreme Court refuse to budge on its March 25, 2008 ruling in the Neri v. Senate Committee case. Equally — if not more — important, however, is the final decision’s bearing on how the executive and the court would hence be dealing with questions involving presidential communications in Congressional inquiries. This is why transparency and accountability advocates are hoping that the Supreme Court will reconsider and allow the Senate to compel disclosure over the claim of executive privilege.
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