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House panel approves FoI bill

The Freedom of Information (FoI) bill hurdled the committee level at the House of Representatives yesterday as public information chaired by ACT Teachers partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio approved the substitute bill consolidating 35 proposed measures.
“We are working for the swift enactment into law of the FoI bill, considering that this is one of the priorities of the Duterte administration,” Tinio stressed.
“We hope that, with the support of the House leadership, we will soon be able to take up the FoI bill in plenary,” he added.
The FoI bill embodies the two aspects of the right to information as mandated by the 1987 Constitution, namely, full public disclosure and citizens’ access to information.
The approved measure reiterates the Constitution’s mandate to disclose the statements of assets, liabilities and networth (SALNs) of certain officials.
Public interest documents or records, such as contracts with the private sector and those which are budget-related,are required to be published by government agencies in their websites.

“The policy of full public disclosure is not fully fleshed out in our current laws. The FoI bill seeks to address that gap,” Tinio said.
The bill also mandates every citizen’s right to ask for and receive information from government, subject only to a limited number of exceptions.
The measure also sets the procedure of requesting for access to information and documents up to appeal in case of denial.
Administrative and criminal liabilities for violation of the right to information will also be put in place through this measure.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, for his part, expressed his full support behind the passage of the FoI bill and expressed optimism that the proposed measure could be passed before the end of the year.
He said while it is up to the rules committee to schedule the bill for plenary debates, the FoI bill may be even tackled by the House despite the ongoing debates on the death penalty bill, which is the top priority legislation of the Executive department.
“Despite the raging debates on the death penalty bill, I think it may be possible for the House to pass it (FoI) within the year,” the House leader stressed.
Advocates of the FoI touted it as one of the most effective deterrents against graft and corruption, as well as abuse of power in government.
Malacañang also lauded the committee on public information for approving the bill, taking it a step closer toward its enactment into law.
“We laud the House committee on public information, chaired by Rep. Antonio Tinio, for approving the FoI bill, an act that affirms the government’s social contract with the people,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, in a statement, said.
“The FoI, long overdue, is an essential component of the President’s anti-corruption drive as it promotes greater transparency, openness and accountability in governance,” he stressed.
The passage of an FoI Bill is one of the priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte.
On July 23, 2016, or two days before he delivered his state of the nation address, Duterte signed an executive order mandating full public disclosure of all offices under the Executive branch.
The historic EO covers “all government offices under the executive branch including, but not limited to, the national government and all its offices, departments, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities including government-owned and -controlled corporations, state universities and colleges.”
Local government units are also encouraged to “observe and be guided by this order.”            

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