PNoy gives go-signal to FOI bill

Posted at 01/04/12 3:25 PM

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino has given the go signal for a Palace study group to "push ahead" with the passage of a Freedom on Information (FOI) Law

Undersecretary Manolo Quezon of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office said the bill will provide for the full disclosure of government transactions and assure every citizen access to public records subject to a few exceptions.

"The President's marching orders to us was to push ahead with the FOI...It makes mandatory the disclosure of a lot of information, specifically the money trail," he told Palace reporters.

"The citizenry and the media have a right to information. Therefore, any grounds for rejecting any request for information is in the nature of an exception but the general rule must be (information is) yours to obtain," he added.

Quezon said a Palace study group presented to Aquino the results of their discussions with various stakeholders about the passage of the FOI Bill.

He said the President made only one intervention in the draft FOI Bill, which is to remove the creation of an independent information commission that will arbitrate requests for access to documents especially if these are denied by a government agency.

"He felt it would add another layer of bureaucracy," he said.

Quezon said a version of the bill is at the committee level in the House of Representatives and is already being discussed in the Senate.

He said he will submit the Palace version of the bill to Congress and leave it to its leaders to make amendments.

He said the only exception to the release of government information is when the information will harm the ability of the state to protect peace and order, diplomatic relations with other countries and compromise police and military operations.