FOI bill advances in the Senate
MANILA, Philippines— A Freedom of Information (FOI) bill covering all branches of government advanced at the Senate on Wednesday after the Senate committee on public information and mass media endorsed the measure to the plenary.
Sen. Grace Poe, the committee chair, is expected to deliver a sponsorship later in the day to seek her colleagues’ support for the measure, which aims to promote openness and transparency across all of government.
Similar bills had failed to pass in previous sessions of Congress.
If passed this time, the FOI act will institutionalize public access to information outside the executive branch, which is currently covered by an Executive Order earlier issued by President Rodrigo Duterte.
READ: Duterte signs FOI order
“We truly appreciate the administration for its keen push of the FOI that would effectively make transparency, accountability and integrity as yardsticks in government performance,” said Poe in a statement Wednesday morning.
“We remain confident that we will pass this FOI in the present Congress because our citizens cannot afford to wait any longer to fully exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to access critical information,” she said.
The proposed FOI law in the Senate consolidated 14 bills that “demands accountability across the public sector, prescribes procedures, remedies and defines limitations for citizens’ access to government record and data and even sets criminal, civil and administrative penalties for non-disclosure of information,” said Poe’s office.
It also requires government officials to disclose their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, except in cases where such public release of information would “compromise national security, defense, law enforcement operations, foreign relations, trade and economic secrets and the constitutional right to privacy and safety.”
The FOI bill had failed to pass in Congress for almost 30 years as it “faced deliberate delays” and “lukewarm backing” from the executive branch in previous administrations, Poe’s office said. CDG