The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) on June 4 joined the clamor for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). A CenPEG delegation, headed by Executive Director Evi-ta Jimenez, joined other groups in trooping to the House of Representatives (HoR) to press for the act's passage. The FOI has been passed by the Senate and for months has awaited a similar action by the lower chamber.
The current 14th Congress will end session this month. The next 15th Congress is expected to convene July 1.
CenPEG issued the following Statement:
RATIFY THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL NOW!
The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) joins the growing clamor for the 14th Congress under the leadership of Speaker Prospero Nograles, Jr. to ratify, without delay, the Freedom of Information Act.
At no other time when a bill of such historic import becomes more urgent than now when Congress is set to move, after the May 10, 2010 elections for the proclamation of a new set of leaders who will take on a new mandate from an unpopular and discredited past. The Filipino people await a new start and this start must be founded on their rights more than any other. Among these rights is the basic right of the people to public information and participate at all levels of decision making, and in all spheres –economic, political, cultural and social.
Why is it that, a nation that prides itself with having struggled against a dictatorship of two decades with a People Power revolution, and of having a constitutionally-enshrined press freedom, find it particularly difficult to advance the right of access to information?
Access to information is a fundamental human right. Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
More importantly, this inalienable right is firmly guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution to ensure effective participation of the people at all levels of decision making. This guarantees the people’s right to access information held by public authorities. To ensure this right, a strong legal foundation is needed. The Freedom of Information Act now waiting ratification at the House of Representatives can help provide this foundation and the legal avenues for the citizenry to exercise their right to gain access to important public information.
More than a decade of waiting has passed. Let us end the vicious cycle of debates, interpellations and challenges on the congressional floor. The Filipino people have long waited for a law to protect their rights to gain access to public information.
The Philippines must now join the community of nations that have enshrined into legal provisions the citizens’ rights to access public information.
This is the call of the times. This is the call of the Filipino people.
RATIFY FOI NOW!
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
June 4, 2010