MANILA – A lawmaker at the House of Representatives on Wednesday said the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill would be a necessary step to boost President Rodrigo Duterte’s battle against corruption as it pushes for greater accountability and transparency in government.
During the House Committee on Public Information’s hearing on 19 bills relating to FOI, Parañaque City Rep. Joy Tambunting said the adoption of a policy of full public disclosure of government transactions would guarantee the right of the people to information on matters of public concern.
Tambunting, who authored House Bill 644, said allowing access by the public to government-held information would be necessary in the exercise of the people’s right to effective and reasonable public participation at all levels of decision-making.
“Enabling the people to exercise their right to information will assure a vigilant public against unscrupulous government officials from committing atrocity against the integrity of our nation,” Tambunting said.
Tambunting said it is high time for the FOI bill to be enacted into law in order to intensify the government’ fight against corruption.
“This will stand as a staunch reminder to all government officials and employees of their duty to the people as well as the obligation to always act for the benefit of the people. President Duterte has declared a war against corruption, and the enactment of the FOI bill is a needed step in this battle,” Tambunting said.
Deputy Speaker Eddie Villanueva, meanwhile, cited Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index showing that the Philippines was ranked 115th out of 180 countries with a score of 34 out of 100.
“We have a very alarming corruption problem, and we cannot say that these are just mere numbers or perceptions. Dahil alam po natin, na ang bawat pisong kinukurakot sa kaban ng bayan ay katumbas ng pagsagasa sa karapatan ng mga Pilipino sa maayos at may dignidad na pamumuhay, lalo na sa panahong tulad nito, na marami sa ating mga kababayan ang lubhang nangangailangan (As we all know, every peso stolen from the nation’s coffers is equivalent to ramming through the Filipinos’ right to live in dignity and security, especially at this time where a lot of our people are in dire need of help),” Villanueva said.
Villanueva said the FOI bill will pave the way to a more conscientious government, owing to the government officials’ prior understanding that the data about official transactions will be open to public scrutiny and questioning.
He also noted that the proposal would help uplift the public’s trust to the government.
“We have seen how transparency has done this in some areas, like Pasig for instance, where their local chief executive has opened data about public bidding to his constituents. The act not only led to more cost-efficient projects; it made the people of Pasig more confident, and I must say proud, about their local government,” he said.
He said government transparency encourages public participation in the conduct of facilitating the country’s daily businesses.
“An honest government with transparent systems also encourages investors, thus advancing micro and macroeconomic growth. For this reason, laws that guarantee people’s right to public information have already been adopted all across the world,” he said.
During the same hearing, Presidential Communications Undersecretary and FOI Program Director Kris Ablan said that they have received a total of 87,417 FOI requests as of March 31, 29,490 of which are paper-based while 57,927 are electronic-based.
For the classification of eFOI users, 12,388 users (29 percent) were coming from the academe, 8571 (20 percent) were from the government, 4615 (11 percent) were from the local government, 2678 (6 percent) were from civil society organizations, 743 (1 percent) were from the media, and 13,739 (32 percent) were from other users.
Ablan noted that the success rate for FOI requests is at 48 percent.
He said a total of 4,206 FOI receiving officers have been designated across government agencies, while 520 agencies are currently onboard the eFOI portal. (PNA)