Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Cebu lawmaker refiles FOI bill

CEBU City Representative Raul Del Mar on Thursday refiled the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill which he said will promote good governance, accountability and transparency in all branches of the government.

Del Mar said his proposal was the same bill which was already approved during the 14th Congress in 2010, and not the so-called “watered-down” version which was introduced during the second half of the presidency of former President Benigno Aquino III in 2013.

The 14th Congress version of the FOI almost became a law. However, due to lack of quorum on its last session day, the Bicameral Conference Committee report was not ratified by the House of Representatives.

The Cebu lawmaker said the 2010 version of the FOI seeks to strengthen the right of Filipino citizen to information held by the government through the full public disclosure of all government transactions involving public interest.

Under the bill, request of information shall be free of charge and could be requested personally, by electronic means or by mail to the government agency concerned.

Del Mar said that under the proposed measure, information shall be given upon request to every Filipino citizen and it shall become the government agencies and public officials’ duty to disclose all records pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions and government research data used as a basis for policy development.

“Access to public records means access to evidence vital to proving public officials accountable for wrongdoing. Also, the new bill provides a convenient procedure to facilitate access to information and remedies are also available for denial of access like administrative, civil and criminal penalties,” Del Mar said.

Outgoing House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. previously vowed to pass their own version of the FOI before the end of the 16th Congress but the former Aquino Administration removed the bill from their list of priority measures.

Del Mar's FOI will cover the executive, legislative and judicial branches, among all the government agencies, departments, bureaus, constitutional commissions and mandated bodies, offices of the Senators and Representatives, the Supreme Court and all lower courts.

It shall also cover local governments and all their agencies, regulatory agencies, chartered institutions, government-owned or controlled corporations including wholly-owned or controlled subsidiaries, offices and instrumentalities, government financial institutions, state universities and colleges.

Law enforcement agencies are also part of his proposed FOI Act including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, The Philippine National Police, though exceptions shall be granted if the information may compromise national security or interfere with any legitimate military or law enforcement operations.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to release an executive order to implement FOI this coming Friday. (Sunnex)
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