ADVOCATES OF THE Freedom of Information (FOI) bill that has slumbered in Congress for the last 14 years came knocking on the doors of Malacanang Palace this afternoon, Monday, as hundreds of members of the Right to Know Right Now network marched to Mendiola to remind the Palace of its commitment to push the pending measure through the legislative mill.
The coalition, composed of more than 150 media, cause oriented, and civil society groups, has been pressing Congress and Malacanang to speed up the passage of the FOI bill to allow ordinary citizens more access to official documents and transactions. The measure would also ensure greater transparency in government operations, as it penalizes efforts to hide official documents such as contracts, memoranda, and asset statements.
Unfortunately, the measure has again gotten stuck on a sandbar in the 15th Congress, despite claims by Malacanang that it has already endorsed the measure as one of President Benigno S. Aquino’s priority bills as early as January this year. Congress leaders say they have not acted on the measure because of mixed signals coming from Malacanang.
Coalition lead convenor Attorney Nepomuceno Malaluan said it was time that FOI advocates collect on the commitment made by President Aquino when he was still campaigning for the Presidency in 2010. Then Senator Aquino had said he would support the passage of an FOI measure in order to institutionalize transparency and accountability.
In today’s march, hundreds of FOI advocates from various groups walked from the University of Sto. Tomas along Espana to historic Mendiola bridge, the traditional entrance to Malacanang Palace. This, Malaluan said, was to serve as a reminder to the President that the people are still waiting for him to make good on his promise to have the FOI enacted by his allies in Congress.