Philippines:Call for Govt to pass Freedom of Information Act
August 16, 2012
The IFJ in observance of Freedom of Information Day in the Philippines, calls on the Aquino Government to pass the FOI Bill
The International Federation of Journalists stands in unity with its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Philippine media community to observe Freedom of Information Day and reiterate demands for the Aquino government to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
In a meeting on August 3, the NUJP, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), Philippine Press Institute (PPI), ABS-CBN and GMA networks, the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and blogger groups declared August 15 Freedom of Information Day. The day is being used as a reminder that the Philippines has been waiting for a freedom of information law for the past 26 years since democracy was restored, and to urge the Aquino Government to pass the long awaited FOI bill, protecting the people’s right to information.
In a statement, the NUJP said that “The government has run out of excuses to delay the passage of the Freedom of Information bill. The only plausible reason why the FOI bill continues to languish in Congress is that the administration does not intend to see it become law.”
Additionally, the NUJP has launched a wave of national advocacy actions to push the government to take concrete measures to pass the bill and has directly challenged President Benigno Aquino III to stand by his commitment to pass the bill. “If President Aquino could push the House to end the debates on the Reproductive Health bill, despite the ire of the Catholic church, there is no reason he cannot do the same for the FOI bill, which would earn him the people’s appreciation.”
“Mr Aquino, believe us, there is nothing we desire more than for you to prove us wrong. And we dare you to do so,” the NUJP added.
Media and advocacy groups have appealed for a FOI bill since democracy was restored to the Philippines in 1986. An FOI bill was first filed in 1992, however over twenty years on, the Filipino people are still waiting for a bill to be ratified, despite the dozens of bills filed and refiled.
The coalition of media groups drafted a joint editorial calling for the Congress, Senate and President Benigno Aquino III himself to swiftly act on the passage of the 20-year-old bill. “Today, we speak with one voice and join the rest of our people in demanding political will on the part of President Aquino, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to lead their respective institutions in immediately enacting the FOI Act.”
“The Philippines Government’s protracted deferral in passing the FOI bill is a breach of their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, guaranteeing freedom of expression, of which the Philippines is a signatory. We call on the Aquino Government to make concrete moves to pass the FOI bill without further delay as a demonstration of their stated commitment to freedom of information in the Philippines,” IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
You are invited to join the call for passing the FOI bill by signing an online manifesto at: http://ifoi.ph/support/. The copy of the bill, drafted by Rep. Erin Tanada, can be accessed at: http://ifoi.ph/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/3-House-Bill-53-Ta%C3%B1ada.pdf?9d7bd4
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