DAVAO CITY—Partylist Rep. Teodoro Casiño said President Aquino’s delivery of the keynote address in the anticorruption forum in Davos would be hollow without a real Freedom of Information (FOI) law being enacted.
Casiño urged the President to certify the bill as urgent so that the House leadership can proceed with its passage to meet the Feb. 6 deadline.
“Malacañang has been stalling the passage of an FOI bill, even the severely watered down version at that,” said Casiño.
“President Aquino’s FOI version is so limited that transparency and accountability are restricted, illustrated by the many exemptions that cover corrupt practices, human rights violations and policy making,” he said.
This as former Manila Rep. Benny Abante said that without an effective FOI law, some P400 billion would be lost to corruption annually.
Citing statistics from international watchdog, Transparency International, Abante said at least 20 percent of the national budget is lost to corruption annually because of the lack of transparency in the government.
“Because our officials do not fear public scrutiny in the absence of FOI, for 2013 alone the Philippines may lose P400 billion to corruption. This amount is nearly the combined budget of the departments of education, health, agriculture and social welfare—enough to ensure that a huge portion of the populace is given access to basic social services, food, clothing, shelter, medicine and education,” Abante said.
Abante, former chair of the House committee on information, prodded lawmakers to hasten the measure’s passage and to take the FOI bill more seriously.
“Giving Filipinos their right to information empowers them. It is the necessary first step in promoting genuine accountability and transparency in the government. Continue to ignore that and we continue to lose billions in public funds through secret deals and under-the-table transactions,” he said in a statement.
He said the country stands to lose billions of pesos if the bill died.
“Other countries had to grapple with an unsympathetic policy environment to enact their version of the FOI. Jordan in the Middle East has it. Our Southeast Asian neighbors, Indonesia and Thailand, have it. Nearly a hundred other countries in the world have their FOIs. After nearly a hundred years of independence and despite what our Constitution mandates, it is unfortunate that the Philippines could not enact its own FOI,” he said. Nico Alconaba, Inquirer Mindanao