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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Editorial: Freedom of Information

WE EXPECT President Rodrigo Duterte to sign an Executive Order (EO) on the Freedom of Information (FOI) today as announced by Communications Secretary Martin Andanar Wednesday.

Aside from suppressing illegal drugs and criminality in the span of six months, the President also promised that he would issue a directive putting in place the FOI.

Andanar said that if everything goes well, the president could already sign the EO today.

Advocates, including militant groups and journalists, have been pushing for more transparency in government long before Duterte was elected.

However, the FOI bill gathered dust in the House of Representatives even after the Senate passed its versions in the 16th Congress and in the two earlier Congresses.

Former President Benigno Aquino III had vowed to certify the FOI bill urgent during his first year in office, but obviously he had forgotten his promise.

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 Aquino administration removed the bill from their list of priority measures.

Pundits claimed the former president was not really sincere on his promise from the get-go.

FOI empowers the public to understand how the government works and how funds are spent and implemented. It would allow everyone to access government documents and transactions, as long as the data would not threaten national security.

Transparency in government, which is plague with corruption, is needed to inform the public, who will serve as watchdogs of the elected and government officials, about the disbursement of funds.

With this, it is seen to deter graft and corruption, as the public would assertively monitor government transactions.

Duterte’s EO would ensure the public’s access to information in the executive department, but advocates are still hopeful for the passage of FOI law that will apply equally to other branches of government and to independent constitutional bodies that cannot be covered by an EO.

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