DAVAO CITY – A media watchdog said it is not expecting a mention of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill during President Benigno Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) next week on July 28.

In an interview Tuesday, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Deputy Director Luis Teodoro explained that despite a growing number of advocates calling for Aquino to prioritize the real FOI bill, “Aquino is against it.”

Last March 10, the Senate passed the FOI bill while its counterpart bill was still pending at the Lower House committee on public information under Representative Jorge Almonte.

“If the FOI bill does pass in the 16th Congress, it will likely be so watered down to make access to information even more problematic,” Teodoro stressed.

He added, that “except for a small minority, practically all of the House of Representatives are against the passage of the FOI.”

Importance of the FOI is never before as relevant as it is right now, Teodoro said, but that “(e)ven with an FOI law, preventing Disbursements Acceleration Program (DAP) would depend on whether the public and the media are vigilant enough to monitor what government has been doing.”

He said that people’s right to access information is guaranteed under the 1987 Constitution, saying “members of the Congress are mandated to pass an FOI law for genuine transparency as a state policy.”

On the other hand, exactly a year after it was launched online, the #PeoplesFOINow campaign at Change.org led by the members of Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition (R2KRN) has gathered more than 16, 0000 signatures aiming to “express collective clamor for President (Benigno III) Aquino and Speaker (Feliciano Jr) Belmonte to exercise leadership and act decisively to pass the FOI bill.”

The campaign began on May 14 and will end a week before the Aquino’s SONA.

The Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition (R2KRN) called for President Aquino and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to “act decisively on the passage of the people’s FOI law.”

Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan, Co-Convenor, Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition told DavaoToday that “we will continue to work and act together for the passage of the  FOI bill.”

According to its online petition, “(W)e need a law that will give life to the right of citizens to request and be given access to government information beyond what government chooses to disclose proactively.”

“An FOI law responds to this by clarifying the scope of and exceptions to available information, by providing the definite procedure for requesting and being given access to information, and by imposing administrative or criminal liability for the violation of a citizen’s right to information,” the petition said.

“The FOI bill remains an elusive reform measure. It baffles most everyone why such an important legislation has languished for more years under an Administration that has sworn to take the path of “Daang Matuwid”,” Malaluan added. (davaotoday.com)

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