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Slice of Life
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
LAWMAKERS have cited some contending issues on the Freedom of Information Bill.
One of it is on the fear of Malacanang that it would the FOI would be ‘prone to abuse by people who ask for information but do not use it for the proper purpose’, thus its watered down version of the bill which expands the list of information exempted from public disclosure. The restriction includes “drafts of orders, resolutions, decisions, memoranda or audit reports by any executive, administrative, regulatory, constitutional, judicial or quasi judicial body in the exercise of their regulatory, audit and adjudicatory function.”
Prior to taking oath of office, the President reiterated that he would prioritize the passage of the FOI bill, a proposal which was first filed in 1992 but got stuck in the honorable chamber of decision makers. On June 2010, the measure passed the third and final reading in both houses of Congress but the House of Representatives led by then-Speaker Prospero Nograles failed to ratify the measure for supposed lack of quorum.
There is a risk of government providing information to the public and allowing them to substantially participate in governance. In the end, information will enable the people to think, actively participate and act for themselves. History shows that no matter what government does and even if it tramples on the human right of people to be heard and to express themselves, an informed citizenry can always initiate and sustain development, remove dictators, break chains and change the status quo.
Why provide that opportunity when it is convenient for politicians and ‘development’ experts to decide on their own and in their best interest? Better yet, why go through the hassle of involving people in development when they are not even able to fend for themselves, much less see to it that their basic needs are covered? Why listen to the people whose views we can easily take into the backseat and whose welfare we can just respond to when their houses are blown off, washed by flood or covered with mud? When the peoples’ lives are not as important as the status bequeath to the families of politicians who have amassed wealth and power while in public service, why honor the commitment to pass the Freedom of Information bill?
Information can be prone to abuse but then in many instances, we have watched the abuse of power by politicians and landed families, and how they get away with it. We watch as resources are pocketed away and lives taken in a snap of a moment. Pray tell, what happened to some environmentalists who were harassed and vilified, some murdered by the state? What happened to the case of journalists and other murdered civilians in Maguindanao? Where should people go when ‘development’ initiatives continue to encroach on their land and threaten their culture? How come we are able to look at people affected by disaster as mere statistics and victims that we can assuage with canned goods, rotten rice and clothings?
In some twisted framework, people’s participation may be a waste of time. Why provide information to those whom we see as beneath our own capacity to think, decide and worse, who could abuse it? When such information poses a challenge to their interest and position, the easiest way would be for decision makers and experts to force their way around.
See where this abuse of power and infringement of the right to know has led us as a nation. The risks of abuse of power are much greater than the fear of people not knowing what to do with the information on their hand, honorables and your Excellency. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 07, 2013.