MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila De Lima believes freedom of information is a crucial tool in the promotion of transparency and prevention of corruption.
Speaking at the 5th Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (Gopac) Global Conference here in Manila, De Lima said that a well-informed and empowered citizenry can effectively and meaningfully participate in good governance.
"Freedom of information is the most effective modality to prevent corruption... will ensure the people's access to public documents and information that would enable them to hold accountable the government for any irregularity or wrongdoing," she said.
The justice chief also pointed out that the passage of a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act will bolster the Aquino administration's "tuwid na daan" anti-corruption campaign.
She said the current government's efforts to promote and institutionalize transparency in public service will not be enough unless such law is passed.
"The governance philosophy of President Benigno S. Aquino III of tuwid na daan or the 'straight path' has harvested gains in our relentless anti-corruption campaign. But it is noted that certain conditions have to be engendered in order for the right to information to be meaningfully practiced. One fundamental requirement is the passage of Freedom of Information laws."
"The willingness and the good faith of this government to make an authentic commitment to transparency as an important element in democratic, efficient and honest governance will not be enough unless there is a very well-crafted law that not only encourages requests for information by the public but also affords speedy processing of the same," De Lima said.
She pointed out that for an FOI law to be "an effective tool against corruption," the following elements, also highlighted by Gopac, must be present, namely,
- there is a regime of free expression;
- the FOI law makes maximum disclosure of information possible;
- it limits the fields about which information may not be disclosed;
- it allows clear, uniform and speedy procedure for access to information; and, (5) there is a measure to protect whistleblowers.
De Lima said that the time is ripe to push for the passage of the much-needed legislation especially with some sectors currently lobbying for it all-out.
"After many years of legislative lobbying, the opportunity to create a Freedom of Information Act is within our reach. The path has been laid out before us. We need only now to simply take it," she stressed.