Mindanao journalists push for freedom of information law

Oct. 01, 2007

By Cheryll D. Fiel
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — Mindanao journalists are joining the call for the passing of a bill that will require government to release public documents fast and penalize violators of the public’s right to know.

Journalists, some of whom experienced being denied information related to the last elections, have committed to campaign among colleagues and lawmakers for the “Freedom of Information Act of 2007,” which, once passed into law, will require government to release public documents within specific number of working days upon receipt of a request and will eliminate the excessive cost of acquiring these data, which is imposed by government agencies.

Working journalists from all over Mindanao were gathered in Davao last month for the “Access of Information” forum, organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD).

The proposed bill, which was passed in the 12th Congress and has reached the Committee Report Level during the 13th Congress, also provides for clear administrative, criminal and civil liabilities for violators and possible courses of actions for citizens denied of information access.

ATIN, a network of organizations advocating for the people’s Constitutional right to information, is pushing for the bill in the 14th Congress, according to lawyer Nepomuceno Malaluan, ATIN co-convenor, and one of the speakers at the forum.

Rowena Carranza-Paraan, secretary-general of the NUJP, cited glaring instances when information was denied the working press in the last elections.

These included the Commission on Election’s (Comelec) refusal to release the names of partylist nominees, a move the Supreme Court later ruled as “grave abuse of discretion.”

She also cited how members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) were barred from interviewing senatorial candidate Antonio Trillanes, who is still in jail for his involvement in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.

Foreign correspondents already secured a court decision granting them authority to interview candidate Trillanes but the military barred the two foreign correspondents for failure to secure clearance from the intelligence unit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Paraan said there were instances in the past when the AFP allowed interviews even without this clearance.

comments powered by Disqus