Anti-pork sentiment a boost for FOI: Grace Poe
MANILA – Senator Grace Poe believes that the current public sentiment against the "pork barrel" is another reason why the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill must be passed in the 16th Congress.
Poe, chair of the Senate public information and mass media committee, said she is confident that the FOI bill will be passed in the Senate, with many of her colleagues in the upper chamber expressing support for the bill.
The neophyte senator said with the current rage against the misuse of pork barrel funds, officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), lawmakers claiming to be against graft and corruption now have no reason to avoid the bill which aims to give the public greater access to government documents.
"Lalo na sa kaganapan ngayon, mawawalan na talaga ng excuse na hindi suportahan ang ganyang panukala kung saka-sakaling gusto mong sabihing seryoso ka na magkaroon ng malinis na gobyerno," Poe told dzMM.
The FOI bill was passed on final reading at the Senate during the 15th Congress, but it did not prosper at the House of Representatives, which only managed to pass it on first reading.
Several versions of the bill had been filed in Congress, including one by the Malacañang, which has its own reservations on the proposed measure.
Poe hopes that the lower house will finally pass its version of the bill.
"Ito po ang sandata natin para makita ang nangyayari sa gobyerno. Sa FOI bill, ang executive, legislative at judiciary, ay hindi exempt," she said.
Meanwhile, Poe said among the provisions of the bill she would like to push is the declassification of certain sensitive government documents after a given period of time.
Poe is also seeking punishment for those who will refuse access to government documents deemed accessible under the FOI bill.
She added that the government must ensure that the measure is implemented properly in case it gets enacted into law. She said some countries with an FOI law have not been successful in enforcing it.
"Kung walang means, walang pondo para magkaroon ng FOI o i-digitize ang information, it will be FOI in name only. Kaya pinag-aralan nating mabuti iyan," she said.
The Senate public information and mass media committee is set to conduct its first public hearing on the FOI bill on September 4, according to Poe.