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Freedom of info bill gets new look, new name

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Freedom of info bill gets new look, new name

Sen. Gregorio Honasan

It’s loking good.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill pending in Congress will get a “new look” now that Malacañang has finally come out with its version of the measure.

To be called the People’s Ownership of Government Information bill, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chairman of the committee on public information and mass media, said: “What will now emerge from our committee is the ‘Pogi’ bill.”

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“We are coining a new acronym in reference to one core component I would like to push,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview.

Honasan said the new name, which is Filipino slang for handsome, would promote the idea that in a democratic setting “all government information actually belongs to the people.”

The new measure “reverses” the main requirement of the FOI bill which is that a private entity would have to show in court why he or she needs a particular piece of information from a government agency in the event that that agency denies their request, the senator said.

Under the Pogi bill, it is the government agency that should explain before the court why it did not release the information, Honasan said.

“This principle is consistent with the fact that ours is a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” he explained. “This means that the people own the government, including its information.”

Honasan said his committee should be ready to present the Pogi bill in plenary, have it approved and reconciled with the House of Representatives version, and have it on President Aquino’s desk for his signature all in the first quarter of the year.

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Sunday said he was hoping for an FOI law “that will enhance transparency and accountability in governance.”

“I therefore call on my colleagues in Congress not only to see to the early passage of the FOI bill but to be vigilant and see to it that the bill is not diluted and its original purpose not changed,” he said in a statement.

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“I hope that by the end of the 15th Congress, we can proudly present to the world our country’s version of an FOI law that would attest to our government’s commitment to demand transparency and accountability from accountable public officials,” Cayetano said.

Honasan said the differences between the Palace version of the FOI bill and the versions now undergoing deliberations in his committee were limited to “semantics.”

He agreed that there was no need for an “information commission,” saying it would only add another layer to the bureaucracy.

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TAGS: Congress, FOI Bill, Legislation, Pogi Bill
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