FOI push is P-Noy’s big gift to the press

January 6, 2012
Statement of National Press Club President Jerry S. Yap

FOI push is P-Noy’s big gift to the press

 To express is nothing when there is nothing to express. Citizens who have nothing to express are citizens of nothing. Reporters with nothing to report are reporters of nothing.

The efficiency of the government is directly proportional to the intelligence of its voters.  The only way to raise their discernment is for all information affecting governance to be allowed to flow out of every confine of the bureaucracy. 

The traditional conduit of information between the government and the people composing the public is the press.  The efficiency of the conduit depends on the volume and speed by which the information flow from the sources.

These premises are some of the strongest arguments for the cry for the enactment of the proposed freedom of information bill.

This advocacy has been fought for and dreamed of for more than a decade. It nearly got its birth in the previous Congress but a congressman killed it during the delivery.  This disheartened the press and the rest of the advocates.

The subsequent oath taking of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III resuscitated the dream only to be shocked later when P-Noy did not include the proposal as urgent bills for the legislature.  He said he sent the bill for study of a committee he handpicked.

The press waited for months for the study to complete.  Now, the President made good his pledge.  He directed the filing of the Malacañang version of the bill.

Regardless of the form and substance of the bill, the National Press Club expresses its profound gratitude to the President for the big push. It is a big New Year gift to the Filipino.  That fiat is the most significant because it gives a persuasive message for all his allies in the House of Representatives and the Senate to make it a priority.

The most salient features of the P-Noy version are noted by the NPC and it agrees they are novel and noble: the duty of all officials to post online their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) for all to see; the posting on line of the budgets, where they were spent, how they were spent, and the accomplishments thereof; and the removal of the “information commission” provision from the Erin Tañada version.

Journalists will now have easy access to vital sources of information by establishing money trails that begin from SALNs. This will reverse the climate of secrecy established by then Ombudswoman Merceditas Gutierrez for all the records of her office and the Supreme Court for all the SALNs of the Chief Justice, its justices and judges.

This will also embolden the many meaningful citizens to have better tools of their activism in order for them to succeed.

The information commission being proposed in the Tañada version that nearly got approved was removed and the NPC agrees with P-Noy on this.  It will only delay the arrival of the requested information.

The P-Noy version also calls for the posting online of other vital information of all offices, including the budgets, where they were spent, how they were spent, and the accomplishment reports.

With his majority allies in both houses of the Congress, the NPC is optimistic for the smooth passage of the FOI bill in 2012 as expressed by several lawmakers in reaction.

Nevertheless, the NPC is aware the version will undergo revisions when it goes through the mill.  But the fact that it is PNoy who pushes it is something that the lawmakers cannot ignore. 

The NPC agrees when the Palace said: “When we digitize the bureaucratic operations, we reform the culture. We make it difficult for corruption to be done.”

Again, the NPC is thankful for this meaningful gift, the support of PNoy on the FOI bill.

Popular Posts