Press council asks for Congress' urgent nod on FOI-A A +A
Friday, September 21, 2012
CEBU CITY -- The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) approved on Thursday a resolution requesting national legislators to act on the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) before the 15th Congress closes.
In its 28th regular quarterly meeting held at the Marco Polo Hotel, the CCPC asked lawmakers to pass a bill “that serves the public’s right to know without prejudicing public interest, as distinguished from the private interest of government officials, and without using the bill as vehicle for the right-to-reply bill, which requires full and separate discussion.”
CCPC member Eileen G. Mangubat, publisher of Cebu Daily News, added in the resolution that if the legislators fail to act on the measure, they should be able to explain to the public why.
Mangubat’s suggestion was adopted by the council during the meeting presided by its president, Dr. Pureza Oñate and executive director Pachico A. Seares.
A copy of the resolution will be submitted to Congress and national media organizations that have worked for the passage of the bill.
Other members of the CCPC board of trustees who supported the resolution are secretary lawyer Jonathan Capanas, SuperBalita editor-in-chief and Sun.Star Cebu executive editor Michelle P. So, journalism professor Mia Embalzado-Mateo and businessman Mario King.
The FOI bill intends to give the public easier access to information from government agencies. It is also supposed to define more clearly the limits to the right of access to information and to prevent arbitrary denials of access.
It provides a “clear, uniform, and speedy procedure” for access to information, including a quick and certain period of compliance.
It also provides the government agencies’ manner of making and responding to requests for access to information -- except when they threaten national security or when their release would compromise anti-crime operations.
Information may also be held if its release would endanger the safety of a protected source, witness, law enforcement or military officer.
The council recalled that on February 3, 2012, Malacañang submitted to the House of Representatives its version of the Freedom of Information Act of 2012, which it said addresses the stakeholders’ desire “to have more transparency and more access to information” but balances the public’s right to know with the government’s “right to legitimate secrets.”
Since then, Representative Erin Tañada and Senator Gregorio Honasan filed a consolidated version of the measure in the House and the Senate.
In submitting the Palace version, the proponents made it clear that the FOI of 2012 is an integral component of the Aquino Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan of 2010-2016, and it wants “every other administration to work under the same standard of transparency and accountability.”
“Since last February, however, there have been mixed signals from Aquino and his allies regarding their real intent about the bill but with a common wariness, that ‘pseudo’ journalists might use information as additional fodder for their attacks against public officials,” the CCPC resolution read.
The position of CCPC on the matter is that if the fear about “hawsiao” press could frustrate a right guaranteed by the Constitution and an election promise and a framework of action by the Aquino government, “that wouldn’t speak well of the leadership’s resolve to succeed in its goals and the press’ willingness to police its ranks.”
Also during the same meeting, Nini Cabaero, editor-in-chief of Sun.Star Network Exchange (Sunnex), talked about Internet libel under Republic Act 8792 or the E-Commerce Act, which provides for stiffer penalty than the old law on libel.
Cabaero found it ironic that while media groups in the country push for the decriminalization of libel, another law expands the coverage of libel to online materials.
Ramon Isberto, public affairs group head of Smart Communications Inc., also talked about dealing with newsrooms and the new media.
He said that while television consistently remains the most popular media source for the past four years, newspaper readership is on the downtrend.
“Print readership declines as consumers access news and information through the Internet,” Isberto shared.
But he also said that print readership can be managed as there is no clear pattern of readership emerging. (EOB of Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 21, 2012.