Palace ‘optimistic’ 18th Congress will pass FOI bill ‘swiftly’
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is “optimistic” that the 18th Congress will “swiftly” pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, one of the priority legislations of President Rodrigo Duterte that remains pending.
Communications Assistant Secretary and FOI executive director Kris Ablan said his team is now “working with the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) to make it a priority measure.”
“We are optimistic about the passage of the FOI Law in the 18th Congress,” Ablan told INQUIRER.net in a text message.
“Our strategies are to continue working with current FOI Champions like Senator Grace Poe, as well as to seek out new partners to get this legislation passed,” he added.
Poe, an FOI advocate, filed Senate Bill No. 121 or the “People’s Freedom of Information Act of 2019” and urged her colleagues to support her give the bill “one big push.”
Ablan said “the changes of chairmanship of the committee on public information in Congress” is one of the reasons why the FOI bill didn’t pass.
“In the 17th Congress, there were several changes,” he said.
In July 23, 2016, Duterte issued Executive Order Executive Order No. 2, which laid down a policy of full public disclosure and transparency in public service to promote accountability, and set the guidelines for requesting and releasing information from offices under the executive branch.
The executive order (EO) does not cover the legislature, judiciary and even local government units (LGUs), although it encourages them to observe the order.
Despite the absence of an FOI law, Ablan said the executive branch has received more than 14,000 FOI requests from 11,000 users on the FOI portal, with a 42% success rate.
On the local side, he said “more than a dozen LGUs have passed their FOI ordinances–the latest being Tuguegarao City in Cagayan.”
“Also new civil society organizations are rising like the Youth Alliance for FOI. Surely these are enough proof that people want and use FOI,” he added.
In his budget message to Congress in 2016, the President said, “It’s Congress’ turn to immediately pass the long overdue FOI law so that the people’s right to information will be honored across all branches and levels of the government.”
Halfway through his six-year term as President, Duterte has not seen Congress pass any FOI bill.
“Hopefully, Congress sees merit and passes the bill swiftly,” Ablan said. (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)
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