Cayetano stresses need for FOI bill passage

sen-alan-peter-cayetano

SENATE Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday stressed the need for the passage of Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) despite the improvement in the   ranking of the Philippines in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2012 report.

He said the Philippines’ new ranking as the 5th among 23 lower-middle income countries known to be effective regulatory enforcement and 6th on limited government powers is a clear indicator that the President’s vision of tuwid na daan is indeed bearing fruit.

The report commended the country “for having reasonably effective checks on government power including a vibrant civil society, free media and independent judiciary.”

The senator credited this improved ranking to the government’s hard-nosed stance in battling graft and corruption in the country.

He stressed however that the primary mechanism lacking in this battle against graft and corruption is a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act that will guarantee the public access to government information that would enable the people to truly participate in ensuring transparency and accountability in government.

“We need to enact the FOI bill in order to bring this fight to the next level. To intensify this government’s drive to cleanse its ranks of the grafters and the corrupt, we need to empower the media and civil society more,” he said.

However, the minority leader lamented the country’s poor ranking in the area of the protection of a person’s fundamental rights.

The report identified the country’s failure to curb “violations against the right to life and security of the person; police abuses; due process violations; and harsh conditions at correctional facilities.”

The report also detailed the weaknesses in the country’s civil court system: “deficient enforcement mechanisms, corruption among judges and law enforcement officers, and the lengthy duration of cases.”

Cayetano pointed out that these problem areas could be addressed by overhauling the country’s penal system.

He said that rehabilitative function of the penal system should be served through projects that will enable inmates and detainees to rejoin the society as productive citizens once their sentences are served.

“Most of our detainees, even when convicted, will not be sentenced to life imprisonment. So how do we help in their reintegration after they have served their time? We should give them the chance to make a living and become productive members of society in the future,” he said.

“Rehabilitation rather than retribution is the key policy of the State that we must adhere to,” he added.

The lawmaker recently launched BILIB IT – an information technology (IT) program designed to give detainees the necessary skills to rejoin the country’s workforce once their sentence ends.

He, in cooperation with Technical and Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Informatics, and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), sees this initiative as a chance to maximize the reform and rehabilitation function of the country’s criminal justice system.

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