FOI: ‘More restrictions than access’
MANILA, Philippines–The freedom of information (FOI) bill is one step closer to passage with the consolidation of its 24 different versions at the House of Representatives, but one of the authors has cried foul over its restrictive passages.
The technical working group (TWG) of the House public information committee has finished drafting the “consensus FOI bill,” which will be submitted for committee approval on Nov. 24, committee chair Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge Almonte said.
Once approved, the bill will be subject to debate on the plenary floor on second reading.
But Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, one of the authors, said the consolidated version of the FOI bill contained “more restrictions to information access than freedom.”
In a statement, Ridon said the draft bill included several exceptions to the grant of access to information which “restrict rather than ease access to government documents and information.”
“If we examine the exceptions provided under the draft consolidated FOI bill, it can be seen that it has morphed from a bill that provides easy and open access to government data to a bill that primarily lists down restrictions,” Ridon said.
Some of the 11 restrictions listed in Section 7 of the draft consolidated bill include:
- Information “authorized to be kept secret under guidelines established by an executive order”;
- Records of minutes and advice given and opinions expressed during decision-making or policy formulation;
- Information pertaining to “internal and/or external defense, law enforcement, and border control”;
- Draft orders, resolutions, decisions, memoranda, audit report, etc.; and
- Information obtained by Congress in executive session
“If these restrictions are passed into law, we will have an FOI law that will ironically curtail access to information on several areas vital to public interest,” Ridon said.
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