LOVE your country and love the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill?
If you do, perhaps you may want to attend the plenary session at 4 p.m. today, Tuesday, of the House of Representatives, Old Batasang Pambansa Complex in Diliman, Quezon City.
Barring further delaying ploys by some lawmakers, the FOI bill is scheduled to be discussed at the House today, starting with a sponsorship speech by Committee on Public Information chairman Rep. Ben Evardone, and hopefully thereafter, quickly, plenary debate may ensue.
Meanwhile, the ranks of FOI advocates continued to grow, with more civil society organizations and leaders speaking up for the immediate passage of the bill in the 15th Congress.
The following organizations have added their voices to the clamor for the FOI bill to pass into law in the last eight session days until Feb.8, when Congress adjourns again for the May 2013 elections.
* Speaking for the Action for Economic Reforms, a lead civil society group in the successful campaign for the sin tax reform, senior economist Jo-Ann Latuja called on Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to “facilitate the passage of FOI in the same way that he instructed Congress to overwhelmingly approve the Abaya sin tax bill in Congress.” The FOI bill, she said, will “help the effective enforcement of the sin tax bill.”
* Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio of Likhaan, a lead civil society group that helped in the passage of the reproductive health (RH) law, said that access to information by having the law on FOI is also crucial for the implementation of the RH law.
“The RH law is about giving the people, especially the women, a choice. People can make correct choices or will be aware of the consequences of their choices if information is made available to them,” she said.
According to Claudio, the FOI bill “promotes a culture of openness or transparency in the bureaucracy, which in turn, will benefit citizens who wish to get information and education related to RH from the government.”
* Ms Cielo Magno, executive director of Bantay Kita, a national civil society coalition made up of more than 80 organizations that monitor revenues in the extractive industries and which is represented in the multi-stakeholder group for the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), said that a law on freedom of information is “a necessary component of EITI, and it is the key to the EITI’s success.”
The EITI international community, she said, will laud a law on access to information, which “will complement EITI.”
Earlier, many other major civil society groups have issued separate statements exhorting Belmonte and House leaders to assure quick passage of the FOI bill in the 15th Congress.
They include the FOI Youth Initiative of 68 student councils and youth organizations; a group of professors, deans, and a university president from various colleges and universities; the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ social action arm NASSA-JP; the Makati Business Club through its executive director Peter Angelo V. Perfecto; a group of 10 Netizens and bloggers; the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; the Kapisanan ng mga Brokaster sa Pilipinas; and the Philippine Press Institute.