FOI taps 'wisdom of crowds'
MANILA - The Filipino is not dumb, according to Sen. Grace Poe, but they do lack information because the government is too opaque about its work.
Speaking at the State of the Freedom of Information Forum at Bonifacio Global City, Poe said the freedom of information (FOI) bill seeks to tap the "wisdom of crowds" by giving every Filipino access to information.
The senator said the most serious challenge to the FOI bill is the conventional wisdom that the Filipino people "do not know any better," and that only a "well-educated, well-born elite few" should lead the country.
"I believe that the masa is not dumb. Ang Pilipino po ay hindi tanga, nagmumuka lang tayong tanga dahil kulang tayo sa sapat na impormasyon. Our people want information, they crave for information about what their government is doing and not doing for them, and today's generation of Filipinos want information fast, and they want it free," she said during the forum.
"We cannot expect today's youth to line up just to get their desired document. They want the information posted instantly, downloadable on a government website today's generation quite literally at their fingertips, at sa pamamagitan ng FOI mabibigay po natin sa taumbayan ang kagustuhan nilang mas maintindihan ang kanilang gobyerno."
She said that throughout history, the Philippines has been ruled by people who were "superior to us - e.g. bar topnotchers, men and women of exceptional talent and keen intellect."
"We were all led to believe that they knew what's best for our country and we allowed them to decide our country's future for us. And where did it get us?" she asked.
Poe said centralized planning and decision-making, even with the best of interests, do not always work because "there was no prior consultation, no buy-in from the people."
Government policies failed, according to Poe, because Filipinos did not understand wholly what these programs were seeking to accomplish.
The senator said that under the FOI bill, there will be automatic uploading of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of anyone in government with salary grade 26 and above plus heads of agencies and offices in all the websites of the government agencies.
She also said there is a period of declassification for presidential communications privilege to make sure that the information will be available for public scrutiny.
Archiving provisions are also included in the bill, she said.
Poe said the FOI bill could have ensured greater transparency of the disbursement acceleration program (DAP). She said one of the provisions of the bill is to have local governments have working websites "so that people can also scrutinize what's going on in the local scene."
"The true value of FOI is not only that it will prevent graft and corruption. More importantly it will teach our people to participate and get involved. Makialam sa palakad ng kanilang gobyerno. A strong FOI empowers the people, it gives them knowledge, it allows them to make informed judgment," she said.