Press club cautions against ‘premature elation’ over FOI Bill

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THE National Press Club cautioned media groups and all concerned sectors not to be “prematurely elated” over the passage by the Lower House of HB 43, otherwise known as the ‘Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill,’ “in view of the many hurdles that lay ahead.”

“While we commend our fellow NPC member and committee on information chair, Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar for showing true political will in passing the FOI bill at the committee level despite opposition from many quarters, it is but one step that has been hurdled along the way of the bill being enacted into law,” NPC president Benny Antiporda said.

“Nevertheless, we assure supporters of the bill among our lawmakers of the club’s unflinching support,” he added.

With only eleven session days left before Congress goes on a long recess for the holiday season, Antiporda said only “greater unity” by those pushing for good governance and transparency in government would make possible the FOI’s being enacted into law.

“With the FOI hurdling the committee level, we now call on Pres. Aquino to quiet all opposition among his congressional allies against the measure and advise them to support it instead.

“We are also calling for greater unity among all media groups and those pushing for transparency in government in order to convince our legislators of the FOI’s importance and relevance,” Antiporda added.

Likewise, Antiporda said calls by some quarters for the inclusion of the ROR (right of reply) provision in the bill is “not only uncalled for but utterly unnecessary.”

“To include the ROR is to emasculate the FOI’s intention.

“It should also be pointed out that in our democratic system, it is the duty of the government to be transparent at all times.

“Along with this, it is against the principles of democracy  and a free society for the authorities to pass legislation that would compel members of the press to write news stories against their will as this is in effect putting ‘prior restraint’ in the exercise of press freedom,” Antiporda said.

On the other hand, Antiporda said the NPC is willing to sit down with congressmen and those in the executive branch to address issues pertaining to national security that have been raised during committee debates by some lawmakers.

“The concern and the apprehension is valid and well-taken. But such concern would best be addressed thru dialogues and consensus-building,” Antiporda said.

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