Friday, December 31, 2010

Philippine freedom of information bill facing discreet opponents in Congress

The House of Representatives is poised to pass the long-awaited Freedom of Information Act despite some contentious issues that attempt to block it in the 15th Congress, a lawmaker said Thursday.

Deputy Speaker and Quezon Province Rep. Lorenzo R. Tañada said twelve bills have been filed in Congress where majority of it are based on the bicameral conference version of the previous congress.
He said some lawmakers have been very discreet on their stand that they are not revealing their position “because it would be a political suicide.”

“Many are disguising that they are supporting freedom of information,” Tañada, chair of the House Committee on Public Information, told reporters at the Ateneo de Davao University on Thursday afternoon.

There are four remaining contentious issues, according to Tañada, where three of which come from Malacañang.

“Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma argues in his position paper that the smooth exercise of government functions can be put at risk if information currently being used by government agencies for decision-making or project management are subjected to access requests at every step of the way. Also, providing access to transcripts and minutes of official meetings may diminish candid and open discussions by public officers. In addition, I have also heard various feedback that Malacañang has apprehensions over safeguards on state security,” he said.

A “reproduction” of the previous Congress’ bill has been filed by Davao 1st district Rep. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles. But he added a provision that would only make legal to get information from government during the passage of the bill and during the incumbency of the President “at the time the request for information has been made.”

Nograles’ bill has been protested by a coalition called “Right to Know, Right Now” and has gathered signatures to coerce the congressman to defeat the bill which they said could compromise public interest.
“The non-retroactivity provision in Nograles’ bill is an unreasonable limitation of the right to information,” said Atty. Nepomuceno Malauan, lead convenor of the coalition.


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