Filipinos need FOI bill, Loren says


Posted at Dec 15 2012 03:25 PM | Updated as of Dec 16 2012 07:03 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Freedom of information (FOI) is a must, especially in matters concerning the government, Senator Loren Legarda said Saturday.

Loren, in a press statement, said the Senate Bill 3208, or the People's Ownership of Government Information (POGI) Act of 2012 that has been approved on second reading, will benefit the public.

"Under this proposed measure, we aim to feed our people with information about us, the leaders they elected into office, and the businesses our offices deal with. All government agencies will be mandated to disclose information on public interest transactions, documents or records," said Legarda, a co-sponsor of the proposed law.

She said the FOI bill will require compulsory disclosure of government documents to be made through government websites or upon a person's request.

She said vital information will also be translated into major Philippine languages.

"While the present administration is undertaking efforts to elevate the citizens' trust and confidence in the government, we must give the people something that they can hold on to that would ensure that honesty, transparency and accountability will always be upheld," Legarda said

The Senate version of the FOI bill which, is now waiting approval on 3rd reading, covers all branches of government and any record, document, paper, report, letters, contract , minutes, transcripts and other similar data including video, pictures and electronic data.

It mandates that access to information be granted except:

- when it is authorized to be kept secret under an executive order and shall pertain to matters of national security or foreign relations;

- the information consists of records of minutes, records of advice given or records of opinions expressed during decision making or policy formation, invoked by the chief executive because of the sensitivity of the matter or by reason of impairment of executive privilege;

- it involved a legitimate military or law enforcement operation;

- it leads to the disclosure of the identity of a confidential source;

- it endangers the life of an individual;

- information obtained by Congress in executive sessions;

- drafts of orders;

- the personal information of a person tantamount to invasion of privacy;

- trade secrets;

- privilege communication protected by the rules of court; and,

- information that may lead to speculations in currencies, financial institutions and endanger the stability o the financial and commodities markets.

It also mandates the disclosure of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of the president, vice president, cabinet, members of congress, supreme court, constitutional commission and military officers with general or flag rank.

All agencies of government are mandated to post on their websites monthly the annual budget of government agencies, itemized monthly collections and disbursement, summary of income and expenditures, IRA utilization, procurement plan and list, items to bid, bid results on civil works and goods and services, abstract of bids as calculated, procurement contracts, construction or concession agreements, private sector participation contracts, public funding extended to private entity bilateral and multilateral agreements and treaties, licenses and permits, guarantees and loans.

The National Computer Center is mandated to monitor the compliance with the requirement to upload these information on the agency websites concerned.

It also prescribes protocols for requesting information, and requires that requests be favorably acted on within 15 working days from receipt.

If the request is to be denied, the bill also wants the notice of denial to be given within 15 days.

It also prescribes jail term of arresto mayor to any government official who denied access to information under the exemptions cited without factual basis.

After it passes 3rd reading, it will wait for the version of the House of Representatives so the two can be reconciled under the bicameral conference committee.