Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Party-List Representative and House Deputy Speaker Bro. Eddie Villanueva yesterday called on the administration to fast track the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill repeatedly filed in Congress since 9th Congress in 1992.
“The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill is a much needed anti-corruption legislation of our time. The bill, once enacted into law, will greatly enhance transparency in the government and aid in the liberal flow of critical information and documents needed by the people to deter public officials from stealing public funds. Thus, barely five months away from the 2022 elections and before the current political term would be over, CIBAC calls on Congress as well as Malacañang to certify as urgent the enactment of the FOI law. If it happens, history will surely remember this as a crowning legacy of the incumbent administration in its anti-corruption crusade,” said Deputy Speaker Villanueva in an interview on International Anti-Corruption Day.
If approved by Congress, the FOI law will require all government agencies to fully disclose their transactions and documents to the public provided such pieces of information will not compromise national security, right to privacy on personal and sensitive information, trade and financial secrets, and privileged communication, among other exemptions. It will also provide for the procedure of access by which citizens can obtain public information as well as legal remedies in case of denials.
Currently, Executive Order No. 2 mandates the Executive branch to grant access to information. An FOI law will be better; it will mandate automatic full disclosure of government information with or without request for it.
From 2016 to 2020, the Philippines bounced between 34 and 36 points in the research-driven CPI, which ranks countries’ and territories’ publicly perceived corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean). Out of 179 countries and territories ranked in 2020, the Philippines is at the low 110s, along with sub-Saharan countries such as Eswatini, Sierra Leone, and Niger. CIBAC strongly believes that the ranking can be greatly improved through the passage of FOI. It is currently pending at the committee level at both Houses of Congress.
Aside from the immediate passage of FOI law, the CIBAC solon also urged the Department of Education to fast track the issuance of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 11476 or Good Manners and Right Conduct (GMRC) and Values Education law. Signed into law last March 2020, RA 11476’s implementing conditions are yet to be issued although the law states that it should be promulgated within 90 days of its enactment.
“The GMRC law is a revolutionary weapon to combat apparent apathy, impunity, loss of sense of moral compass and tolerance of corruption among our people so that the new generation will be cultured and raised up in the teaching of honesty, integrity and love for God and country. Thus, we also call on the Department of Education (DepEd) and all concerned to fast track the issuance of GMRC law IRR so that our schools can readily implement the law and teach values and anti-corruption tenets to our youth. We must start them young, teach them to hate corruption early, and there is no better venue to do that than the halls of our schools,” the CIBAC lawmaker emphasized. #