FOI’s non-passage not acceptable!, advocates say

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CAGAYAN DE ORO City, Nov. 6, 2012With exactly 36 working days left before Congress adjourns, freedom of information advocates on Monday said that the non-passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill is “not acceptable.”

In a strongly-worded statement, the Right to Know, Right Now! (R2KRN) Coalition said that FOI is needed by the Aquino administration to fight corruption and institutionalize transparency and accountability in government.

The Aquino administration prides itself for being transparent, accountable and good.

“Passing the FOI law now will reinforce the political statement that the fight against corruption applies equally to all. It will no doubt make a difference in the landscape of the anti-corruption efforts of government, which used to put political survival at the forefront while key measures are made to wait in order to manage politics.  We will not accept a non-passage of the FOI bill in the 15th Congress!,” the coalition said.

In this capital city of Northern Mindanao, meanwhile, the Archdiocesan Center of Concern, Empowerment and Social Services of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro (ACCESS-ACDO) is organizing a back-to-back forum on FOI and Cybercrime Prevention Act on Nov. 16.

The forum, which is being organized in partnership with R2KRN Coalition, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Cagayan de Oro Press Club (COPC), and CDO Bloggers, Inc. and various civil society organizations (CSOs), aims to (1) increase the awareness among all stakeholders the salient provisions of the consolidated FOI Bill now pending in Congress as well as the Cybercrime Prevention Act; (2) generate solidarity among the stakeholders in creating a strong mass-based clamor that will help push for the immediate passage of the FOI and repeal of the questioned provisions of the Cybercrime Prevention Act; (3) secure commitment of candidates (local and national) seeking elective office in 2013 to institutionalize transparency, accountability and good governance when elected into office; (4) create a groundswell demanding the proper accounting of the millions/billions of pesos the City Hall received from international, national and local donors for the rehabilitation initiatives of the Sendong survivors that City Hall will not be able to just ignore; and (5) force City Hall to release to the public the names of all operators and companies now undertaking mining operations in the city’s hinterlands.

“The forum aims to highlight the Cagayan de Oro communities’ clamor for FOI and the opposition against Republic Act 10175, also known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which, much to our surprise and disappointment, was approved first and faster than the promised and long-overdue FOI law under the watch of President Benigno Aquino III,” said Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J.

Ledesma said that passage of the FOI will institutionalize transparency, accountability and good governance in all levels of government.

“The absence of a specific FOI law continues to stifle transparency, accountability and good governance both at the national and local levels. Here in Cagayan de Oro City alone, the local government has not been transparent and honest on the effects of mining to the city’s environment despite scientific evidence pointing to continued mining operations in Cagayan de Oro’s hinterlands exacerbated tropical storm Sendong’s impact. On a related issue, the local government continues to ignore public demand for official accounting of all the funds/donations it received for the rehabilitation and support for Sendong’s survivors. Given the situation, the organizers came together to highlight the importance of FOI to improve the lives of community, especially those who were yet to recover from Sendong’s effects,” he stressed.

FOI advocates, led by R2KRN said that they can no longer wait for the next Congress to pass the FOI law.

“Time is of the essence to maximize the FOI law’s full potential in fighting corruption and ingraining the culture of transparency and accountability in government. If we again wait for the next Congress to pass the FOI law, there would be very limited time to ensure its proper and effective implementation that we hope an anti-corruption administration can ensure. One key lesson from anti-corruption efforts is that we are weakest in implementation,” said R2KRN Coalition’s statement signed by various personalities led by R2KRN Coalition Co-convenor lawyer Nepomuceno Malaluan.

Other signatories included Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo, DD, chairman, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA); Malou Mangahas, executive director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ);  Annie Geron, general secretary, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK); Vincent Lazatin, executive director, Transparency and Accountability Network; Prof. Luis Teodoro, deputy director, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR); Josua Mata, secretary general, Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL); Yuen Abana, campaign coordinator, Partido ng Manggagawa; Clarissa V. Militante, coordinator, Focus on the Global South, Philippines Programme; and Max M. De Mesa, chairperson, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), among others.

FOI advocates will conduct a peaceful assembly in Mendiola on November 12 to urge “President Aquino as well as the leaders and members of the Senate and House of Representatives, to honor their promise to pass the Freedom of Information Act.”

They said that what is needed at this time is for President Aquino to have the political will to act on his promises to pass the FOI law to bolster his campaign promise to institute a good, transparent and accountable government under his watch. (Bong D. Fabe)


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