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Freedom of info bill begins new journey in Senate

Failing approval in the last two Congresses, the freedom of information (FOI) bill begins yet another journey to convince legislators to finally pass a law that would activate a constitutional provision on government transparency.

Reelected Senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano have filed their respective versions of the transparency measure that did not make it through the 14th and 15th Congresses.

Freedom of information, or the right of the public to access information on government transactions, was enshrined in the Philippine Constitution over a quarter of a century ago but executive and legislative leaders of the country have so far held up its passage into law.

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Escudero and Cayetano’s relaunched versions of the FOI bill were among the first measures to be filed as the 16th Congress got underway this week.

“Transparency in all government transactions empowers the people to correctly demand accountability from the government,” Escudero said in his explanatory note on Senate Bill No. 18.

Escudero said the state “recognizes the right of the people to information on matters of public concern and adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest subject to procedures and limitations.”

“There is an urgent need to follow through and institutionalize President Aquino’s anticorruption and transparency initiatives, and the immediate passage of this bill consolidates and concretizes existing efforts,” Cayetano said in his own explanatory note in Senate Bill No. 90.

Both the Escudero and the Cayetano bills carry provisions for the criminal liability of any government bureaucrat who fails to comply with the public disclosure clauses of the proposed FOI law.

The Senate in the 15th Congress managed to pass a version of an FOI law—titled the People’s Ownership of Government Information law or POGI—but the House version languished in the information committee of Rep. Ben Evardone (Samar), until it was too late to meet plenary processes before the election recess.

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, FOI Bill, Francis Escudero, Freedom of Information bill, Philippines, Senate
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