‘Another Layer of Bureaucracy’ | Inquirer News

‘Another Layer of Bureaucracy’

Palace has proposal for FOI bill
By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 07:52 AM July 29, 2011

Malacañang has put forward the creation of a commission to arbitrate the denial of a citizen’s request for government documents, in a provision it is proposing to be inserted into the freedom of information bill.

A Malacañang-created study group, headed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, introduced the proposal during exchanges of drafts on the measure with proponents and advocates of the bill.

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Manuel Quezon III, a Malacañang communications undersecretary who is a member of the study group, said the proposal arose over concerns about the possibility of requests for documents being denied and the lack of a body to arbitrate this.

“If the decision of an official was questioned, would anyone then end up being hailed to court and being deluged with court cases? If the object is to release information, then there should be a body that can act as arbiter of these things,” he told a forum organized by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility on Wednesday.

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The proposal, inspired by Canada’s Information Commission, was in the original version of the bill in the 14th Congress, but was shot down by lawmakers.

Advocates of the FOI bill, which seeks to institutionalize the full disclosure of government transactions involving public interest, are pushing for its approval in the current 15th Congress.

Bayan Muna party-list member Teodoro Casiño, author of one version of the bill, objected to the creation of another “layer of bureaucracy.”

“I’m afraid that this will be used as a further hindrance to having access to information,” he told the forum.

“Let us not be instruments of tying our own hands. We should go for the maximum because the job of the House is to water it down,” he told the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition.

Nepomuceno Malaluan, a co-convenor of the coalition, said the group was not averse to the idea of an information commission, but that this should be made independent of the Office of the President.

According to Quezon, during the exchanges of drafts among the study group, lawmakers and the coalition, there was a consensus that the commission would not be placed under the Office of the President,

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“If it will have some power over the denial of access to information, then it has to be independent,” he said.

If such a commission were to be set up, its composition should be clearly defined, given its many powers, said Theodore Te of the UP College of Law.

“We might want to consider putting in expressly, as far as choosing members, that the President will be guided by the input and choices of civil societies, groups or entities who will nominate people from among the ranks of the advocates,” he told the forum.

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TAGS: Bayan Muna party-list member Teodoro Casiño, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Freedom of Information bill, Malacañang communications undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, Malacañang study group
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