FOI bill will also oblige LGUs to disclose info

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill will also oblige local government units to disclose information when requested, the chairperson of the technical working group (TWG) of the Congressional Committee on Public Information said.

“The FOI is not only limited to national government agencies but is also applicable to LGUs,” said Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III.

According to Tañada, LGUs play a very important role in curbing, if not, eliminating graft and corruption in government, which is why it is very important to include them in the scope of a freedom of information law.

He said the people’s right to be informed on matters of public concern as enshrined in Section 7 of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights is far from complete.

“Its effective implementation has for the past two decades suffered from the lack of necessary substantive and procedural details that only the legislature can provide,” Tañada explained.

He said the FOI bill will respond to the following problems:

  • absence of a uniform, simple and speedy access procedure;
  • while in legal theory there is no discretion in giving access to information, it remains discretionary in practice;
  • there is still untested, if not insufficient, basis for sanctions in cases of violation of the right to information;
  • the remedy to compel disclosure, primarily judicial, is inaccessible to the general public;
  • government’s record-keeping system is in a very poor state;
  • there is a very low level of bureaucratic commitment to openness and
  • the cost of access to certain information is excessive.

Tañada said that aside from giving solution these problems, the FOI will also provide the following:

  • an expansive scope in terms of government agencies as well as information covered;
  • a clear, uniform and speedy procedure for access to information;
  • a proscription against excessive costs of access to information;
  • a system of accessible and speedy remedies that a citizen who has been denied access to information may resort to;
  • a mandate to promote a culture of openness within government; and
  • clear administrative, criminal and civil liability for violation of the right to information.

Tañada said that he saw no reason for any delay in the passage of the measure.

“I therefore enjoin all members of the 15th Congress to pass this expeditiously knowing fully well the right that we are giving our people. Let this be our very first legacy under the new dispensation,” he said. Albus D. Estabas

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