FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (FOI) advocates will be charging up their campaign for the passage of the long-delayed bill into law by lighting up the House of Representatives on September 27, Friday evening – with candles.
Dubbed as “Light Up 4 FOI,” the Right to Know, Right Now! (RKRN) Coalition will be holding a candle-lighting vigil at the Batasan Pambansa’s South Gate at 5 p.m. Friday, in hopes of making legislators see the light – and the value of immediately passing the bill.
Friday, September 27—the eve of the International Right to Know Day—is also the last working day before the Lower House takes a two-week break. The mobilization also comes in the midst of the budget hearings, as legislators pore through billions of pesos in proposed public fund spending for the next year. To FOI advocates, this is the best time to remind legislators of the need for transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.
In an emailed statement, RKRN Coalition main convenor Nepomuceno Malaluan explained that “budget discussions are an opportune time to press the issue of the pork barrel controversy and to push for transparency in the handling of public funds.”
“We will light candles to symbolize our desire to have a government where information is illuminated and made accessible to all citizens. Sa dami ng lumalantad na isyung may kinalaman sa pondo ng mamamayan, palakasin natin ang panawagang ipasa ang batas na magtitiyak na ang pamahalaan natin ay bukas at may pananagutan,” the statement says. (With all the issues coming out on the abuse of public funds, we need to make a stronger appeal for a law that will make sure our government is transparent and accountable.)
Organizers of the Light Up 4 FOI are enjoining citizens across the country to get involved via social media by “posting a photo of yourself with a lit candle and a statement stating your call for the passage of the FOI Bill, with hashtag #LightUp4FOI.
(Ex. “Ako si [NAME]; kasama ako sa panawagang ipasa na ang FOI Bill! #LightUp4FOI” or “I am [NAME]; I am one with the call for the passage of the FOI Bill! #LightUp4FOI”)
FOI advocates lament that despite the perceived breakdown of government safeguard mechanisms, the calls to address the ills of the pork barrel and to bring the guilty to justice, the Lower House has stubbornly remained the “bastion of resistance to FOI.”
Malaluan argues that FOI will empower every citizen to directly protect themselves against abuses of hard-earned resources that the people have entrusted to government.
“No credible concrete action to advance the bill has been proposed by its leaders. Worse, old excuses, such as the unavailability of a meeting room, are rehashed to explain inaction,” Malaluan said.