Grace Poe: Why FOI law is important

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 02 2014 04:45 PM | Updated as of Aug 03 2014 01:56 AM

MANILA - Details about the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) would have been made known to the public the very first day it was implemented if only a freedom of information (FOI) law had already been in place, Senator Grace Poe said.

Speaking to radio dzMM on Saturday, Poe said an FOI law would have compelled the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to provide the list of senators who received millions of pesos of DAP funds early on.

"Kaya doon pa lamang sa puntong yun eh ma-question na, 'Teka muna, bakit niyo binibigyan si Senator so and so ng P50 milion?'" she said.

She said knowing that the public was already keeping an eye on them, the DBM and the DAP recipients would also then have no other choice but to release information and immediately account for the funds.

"So ngayon, kung sakali ngang natanggap na ng senador na yun, mag-iingat siya. 'Ay teka muna, alam pala ng mga tao na nakatanggap ako niyan.' So magkakaroon ngayon ng responsibilidad," Poe said.

"Alam mo yung mga mata ng taumbayan ay nakatutok sa iyo, at hindi mo pwedeng ikubli o itago ang mga impormasyon na meron ka," she added.

She said the law could have also prevented the outrage the people now have over the DAP, which first became controversial after it was alleged to have been used to bribe senators during the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Transparency

According to Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public information, passing the FOI bill is very important since it would institutionalize a system of transparency in public documents and transactions.

With an FOI law, even an ordinary citizen would have easy access to public documents.

"Ang freedom of information kahit sino pang nakaupo ay magbibigay sa atin ng sandata para naman magkaroon tayo ng karapatan na usisain ang mga transaksyon ng gobyerno."

"Kung wala yan, mahihirapan tayo. Sapagkat kahit na sabihin nating mabait ang isang pangulo, masipag, eh kung hindi naman natin nakikita lahat ng ginagawa niya ay talagang malulusutan tayo niyan," she said.

Likewise, Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Neri Colmenares said: "Everyday na walang FOI, maraming mga transaksyon, maraming mga kontrata ang hindi natin makilatis."

PNoy 'not sincere'

In a separate interview with dzMM, Colmenares said the FOI bill has languished in the Public Information Committee in the House of the Representatives.

He noted that the committee is still deliberating on the exceptions under the bill so as to ensure that an FOI law "without teeth" would not be passed.

"Pwedeng parang may FOI ka in name pero in reality pahihirapan mo ang media, pahihirapan mo ang publiko na kumuha ng impormasyon... Na parang wala nang silbi ang FOI," he said.

The FOI bill was number 18 in Malacañang's list of 26 priority measures.

Colmenares, who has been a critic of the Aquino administration, said he feels that the President is "not sincere" and "not enthusiastic" in passing the bill even if he included it in the list of his priority measures.

"Parang ang intensyon, 'Yung sunod na lang na presidente ang kilatisin niyo, huwag yung ngayon,'" he said.

But according to Poe, she remains hopeful that the FOI bill will be passed before the President's term ends in 2016.

Poe believes Aquino will stay true to the promise that he made while he was campaigning for the presidency in 2010.