YOU DON’T NEED TO BE a journalist to appreciate the need for a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

This was the clear and resounding message delivered by 250 people, including port workers and balut vendors, who attended the FOI community assembly held in Manila’s Tondo district on Sunday, November 11.

The assembly was the third organized by the Right to Know Right Now Coalition, a network of 150 media, cause-oriented, and civil society groups that have been pushing for the passage of the long-delayed FOI bill in Congress.

The community events seek to enjoin people to discuss the issues surrounding the FOI, and how ordinary people can benefit from its passage into law.

The assembly was held at the covered court of Barangay 72 in Tondo. Manila, and was attended by workers from the Port of Manila, including stevedores and dock workers.

According to Emilio Manaois, president of the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa ng Pantalan, the FOI Act is important to dock workers in light of proposals to privatize many of the country’s ports. Manaois said dock workers are concerned that they would lose their jobs if the privatization goes on full swing.

“If we were given sufficient information on the effects of these projects to our jobs, we should have at least prepared ourselves. Most of our members lost their jobs,” Manaois said in Filipino.

Other community leaders who expressed support for the FOI included Juliet Magdulot of the senior citizens of Tondo, and Beth Templado of the North Harbor Port Vendors Association.

Lawyer Nepomuceno Malaluan, co-convenor of the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition, also briefed the participants on basic information in the FOI bill, and why the law should be the concern of all citizens, and not just journalists, researchers, and investigators.

“Hindi lahat ng government units at mga opisyal ng gobyerno ay bukas sa kanilang mga transaksyon at desisyon kaya importante ang FOI (Not all government units and government officials are open in their transactions and decisions, that’s why FOI is needed,” Malaluan said.

The participants also signed a graffiti wall to proclaim their support for the FOI bill. “There is no freedom if we are not provided information properly,” the graffiti stated.

A fourth community assembly is being scheduled later this month in Cagayan de Oro City.


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