Aquino forwards substitute Freedom of Information Bill to congressional allies

February 3, 2012 10:49 pm 

MANILA, Feb. 3 — President Benigno S. Aquino III said his administration has submitted a substitute Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) to their allies in the lower house for the eventual passage of the legislation aimed at having wider public access to government information.

“Now because it’s your 112th anniversary, let me give you my gift. Here’s the scoop: I am happy to share with you that we have made progress in a much talked about issue. Earlier today — and actually this afternoon — we formally submitted to our coalition partners in the House of Representatives a substitute Freedom of Information Bill, which we believe addresses stakeholders’ desires to have more transparency and more access to information in government,” the President said in his speech at the 112th anniversary of the Manila Bulletin on Thursday.

“We want every other administration voted into power to work under the same standard of transparency and accountability that we have set for ourselves. This is a significant step toward achieving that goal,” he said.

Just before his announcement, the President instructed his communications group, which has been doing consultations to craft the legislation, to “push ahead” with the much-delayed Freedom of Information bill.

During the 14th Congress, the House of Representatives failed to ratify the FOI bill due to lack of quorum and protests from congressmen, although the Senate ratified a similar measure in the bicameral conference committee.

There are several versions of the FOI bill filed in the 15th Congress that have been pending at the committee level in both the houses of Congress. The 15th Congress wanted the passage of the controversial measure as its major achievement.

Once passed, the FOI bill would allow the public to obtain records of government transactions, meetings and other businesses, a right enshrined in the Constitution. It will also provide definite procedure in dealing with requests for information and seeks to penalize officials denying access to information.

President Aquino vowed to support the passage of the bill during the 2010 presidential campaign. (PNA)

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