FOI – for transparency in government and accountability to the people PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 11:04

For fourteen years, the bill to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) has been pending in the Congress of the Philippines. There was a glimpse of hope when Noynoy Aquino became our country’s president with a rah rah of “matuwid na daan”.

The bill will compel our government officials to reveal all government transactions, expenditures, and open their SALN (Statement of Assets and Liabilities) to the public. Media will have an easy access to this information and tell the people. It would have strengthened Aquino’s Government thrust for transparency, accountability, and good governance to address corruption issues.

But I guess with the remnants of the past administrations from Marcos to Cory, Ramos, Estrada, and worse of all, Arroyo, still in power, FOI still faces a lot of resistance and challenges from our national leaders. In three weeks’ time, the 15th Congress will be adjourning and most of the congressional representatives will be busy for their reelection in May 2013. And who among them are willing to open to the media their bank accounts? Shown how much they have spent for the projects up to the last centavos? Can anyone just visit any government offices easily and ask them what they have achieved without being shoved around?

With some of our media colleagues being harassed, murdered, and unfortunately some are “bought” to keep silent, FOI would have been be a great step to stop these from happening and allow everyone to know what is really happening in the present government.

To quote editor of Philippine South Angle, Frencie Carreon, “if this Congress is fearless enough to see the passage of this bill, as it has been impressively daring in pushing for the impeachment of the former Chief Justice Renato Corona, the Filipino people can be assured that the Aquino Government will propel this nation into what it promised it to be: one on the right track, the straight path”.

What is happening now, the present administration uses the issues of transparency, accountability and good governance only against the past administration. But when it comes to them, it prefers to keep mum. The FOI bill will level all field. No one will be exempted, from barangay officials to local and national government officials, they must be transparent in their dealings and be openly accountable to the people.

With the House of Representatives’ committee on public information set to hold its meeting on Novemeber 27 to tackle the bill, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)-Zamboanga City enjoins all stakeholders especially our two Congress Representatives, Beng Climaco-Salazar and Erbie Fabian, to support and vote the passage of the bill to the Senate.

Until then, our constitutional right to know is still not completely ours. More government officials are getting richer, taxes will increase, poor government services, and no one in the government is liable to answer why the poor are getting poorer, education is expensive, one is jobless or underpaid, no effective housing projects, getting sick is prohibitive, etc. 

A Forum about FOI was held yesterday at ADZU with student leaders from different schools and media outfits. It was initiated by the NUJP-Zamboanga City and hosted by International Studies Student Organization of Ateneo and Ateneo Communicators. It was supported by the Right To Know Right Now Coalition, ABS-CBN Zamboanga, Mindanao examiner, The PhilSouth Angle, and Zamboanga City Press Club.

Guests were Right To Know Right Now Coalition Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan and NUJP- Secretary general Rowena Carranza-Paraan. They are encouraging every Filipinos to support and rally their leaders to push FOI bill.

On Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 (Thursday), 1 to 3pm, at the ADZU Audiovisual Room, NUJP-Zamboanga is inviting all local media practitioners on a forum about Media Ethics and Role of Media in the Transformation of Society by Ehemplo author Fr. Albert Alejo.

By Dante Corteza