Pass the Freedom of
Information Bill now!
By CBCP Caritas Filipinas
Our peoples’ right to
information – access to the records, documents, papers of/on
contracts, transactions, decisions, programs, data, regulations, and
all other official acts of government – provides greater opportunity
for peoples’ participation in good governance. It is a constitutional
right of every Filipino to be informed of the governmental affairs to
ensure healthy social environment for democratic peoples’
participation in the delivery of programs, projects and services of
The National Secretariat for
Social Action - Justice and Peace (NASSA), the social action and
development arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
(CBCP), calls upon our legislators to PASS THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
(FOI) BILL in the 15th Congress. CBCP-NASSA strongly believes FOI
adheres to the principle of transparency and accountability. It is an
important component to appropriately ensure the flagship governmental
advocacy on “MATUWID Na DAAN.”
Lack of access to
information systematically subjects our concerned sectors – farmers,
fisherfolks, Indigenous peoples, workers and rural and urban poor,
particularly the Basic Ecclesial communities – to become vulnerable to
exploitation and manipulation by bad elements in the society.
Unfamiliarity and ignorance of government processes, contracts,
activities and services, together with lack of formal education cause
deprivation of rights and poverty. Our people then become mere objects
of government policies rather than subjects/ participants in their
Without access to
information, these sectors as well as other sectors in the Philippine
society gain no knowledge as to what government plans. They would be
unaware of the projects and contracts the national and local
governments make for them. Even now, although some of these
communities and/ or sectors are consulted, their issues and concerns
are not being heard. Our people then eventually tend to develop
distrust in government institutions and activities.
CBCP-NASSA finds several
questions worthy of reflection:
- Why is it that in 14 years
the FOI bill has still not been passed?
- Why did the Aquino
Administration not certify FOI as one of the priority bills when the
President demands for transparency and accountability in his effort to
eliminate corruption in his government?
- Why has the Congress not
called committee hearing on FOI? Why is Malacanang not following-up
the calling of hearings if there is nothing to fear about the
- How can the government be
true to its mandate according to the 1987 Philippine Constitution Art.
III, Section 7, stating “The right of the people to information on
matters of public concern shall be recognized” if there is no
political will to take concrete steps to adopt FOI?
CBCP-NASSA believes that the
passage of the Freedom of Information bill enhances people’s
participation in politics and governance. The passage and enforcement
of FOI would be a great service to the people; it empowers people with
a new tool of information, especially the poor; it promotes social
justice by giving the opportunity for social auditing of previously
inaccessible public information, all geared towards the pursuit of the
In the spirit of truth and
justice, CBCP-NASSA calls upon President Benigno Aquino III to
immediately certify the FOI bill as a priority, and urge all the
members of the House of Representatives especially his party members,
to support the passage of the FOI. Unless the President sees the
urgent need to pass the FOI bill, his campaign on “Matuwid na Daan” is
only a slogan, and has no firm basis.
We urge Speaker Feliciano
Belmonte, Jr. to immediately direct their respective Chairpersons of
the Committee on Public Information to conduct committee hearings on
the said bill. Both houses of Congress should deliberate and decide on
the bill before the 15th Congress ends.
CBCP-NASSA also prays for
the support of every individual and groups who want to transform
Philippine politics into an art of good governance. Let us encourage
our respective district representatives and senators to vote for the
passage of FOI. As our representatives in the government, their
authority resides and emanate from us. Let them truly represent us in
Congress by supporting the passage of FOI.
+ BRODERICK S. PABILLO, D.D.
20 September 2012