July 19, 2011 · Posted in: General

Bantay FOI campaign launched

More than 150 media and civil society groups banded together Tuesday, July 19 2011, to launch the Bantay FOI campaign to push for the immediate passage of the long-delayed Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

With the slogan “Kung Walang FOI, Dadami Corrupt, Dadami Mahirap (Without An FOI, There Will Be More Corruption, And More Poverty),” FOI advocates launched the campaign barely a week before President Benigno Aquino delivers his second State of the Nation Address before Congress on July 25. The FOI slogan is a play of President Aquino’s own campaign slogan during his presidential campaign, “Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap (Without Corruption, There Would Be No Poverty).”

Campaign advocates pointed out that President Aquino had pledged support for the FOI bill when he was still a presidential candidate in 2010. However, 14 months after assuming office, the President appears to have gone back on his pledge, or at the very least, placed it in the backburner. The President and several cabinet members have reportedly expressed concern over the possible effects of the measure on both security, and the free flow of opinions during internal policy deliberations.

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism Executive Director Malou Mangahas said that while advocates agree on the need to strike a balance between the citizens’ right to know and the concerns of the President and some of his Cabinet members, it would be very disappointing if the President delivers his second SONA without any progress on the FOI bill. PCIJ is a co-convenor of the Bantay FOI campaign.

“President Aquino had promised in no uncertain terms that he will see to the passage of the FOI bill,” Mangahas said. “Our hopes were dashed when the President failed to enroll the FOI bill among the priority measures.”

“With only a week to go before the SONA, the redrafted bill has not yet been discussed or approved by the President,” Mangahas added.

House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III said that the FOI bill may be approved by the House Public Information committee by August this year, which means that the measure could be presented to the plenary by September. Senator Teofisto Guingona III, another FOI advocate, said the Senate was working with the same timetable.

“The important question is whether the executive branch is ready or not (to endorse the FOI bill),” Tanada said. “Time is of the essence.”

Tanada also warned that there were many sectors within Congress that were trying to “mangle” the FOI bill by inserting riders or provisions that would defeat the principle of giving ordinary citizens more access to information. One congressman, for example, filed another version of the FOI bill that included a provision for a “Right to Reply.” Media organizations have consistently opposed moves to impose a “Right to Reply” provision, saying it encroaches on freedom of expression and the editorial prerogatives of the media.

World Bank Country Representative Bert Hofman said the World Bank is very supportive of all moves to increase transparency in government. Hofman said the World Bank believes that transparency always goes hand in hand with development and good governance.

Advocates had been pushing for a Freedom of Information law for the past 14 years. The nearest they came to success was last year, after both chambers of Congress approved the FOI bill. However, the measure was scuttled when Congressmen failed to ratify the conference committee report, or the consolidated version of the FOI bill from both chambers of Congress. Because of this, the bill reverted to the committee level for deliberations by the members of the new Congress.

2 Responses to Bantay FOI campaign launched



July 20th, 2011 at 5:44 am

sana noon pa ito… at sana matupad na ang lahat… gaya ng walang lokohan…


Burgos Media Center

November 7th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Greetings in the admists of our trying times.We are Burgos Media Center , a newly formed media group . Our group is composed practitioners and non practitioners in the field of media who are aiming for a genuine press freedom in our country.

We believe that , Implementing FOI bill could be the start for our country to attain this aim that we think we both shared.

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