Senate passes Freedom of Information Bill
Louis Bacani (The Philippine Star) - March 10, 2014 - 3:57pm

MANILA, Philippines -  The Senate on Monday approved the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill on third and final reading.

Senate Bill No. 1733 or the People's FOI was passed with 21 affirmative votes from all senators present.

Senator Grace Poe, the bill's sponsor and chair of the Senate Committee on People's Public Information and Mass Media, said the measure aims to eliminate corruption in the bureaucracy by opening government transactions to the public and holding government officials accountable for their actions.

"The FOI will not only prevent graft and corruption but more importantly, our citizens will learn to get involved and participate in government matters," Poe said during her sponsorship speech.

Under the measure, citizens will have the right to request and be granted access to records or information that is under the control of government, subject to reasonable exceptions.

Once enacted into law, the FOI bill will require government offiials to act or comply with the request for information within 15 working days.

These include information that would jeopardize national security, foreign relations, law enforcement operations, trade and economic secrets, individual's right to privacy, privileged information as considered in judicial proceedings or information made in executive sessions of Congress and those that are covered by presidential privilege.

But Poe said these exemptions shall not be used to cover up a crime, wrongdoing, graft or corruption, or other illegal activities.

According to Poe, the proposed legislation will cover all government agencies and instrumentalities, which will also be required to upload on their websites the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and New Worth of their officials.

The senator said the websites of the government agencies should also publish all information pertaining to annual budget, monthly disbursements, procurement plan, items for bidding and its corresponding results, contracts with domestic or foreign entities, bilateral or multilateral treaties, among others.

"Any loan or transaction entered into by any government agency amounting to at least P50 million shall be uploaded in full on the website of the concerned government agency or the Official Gazette online," Poe said.

Poe said all government agencies will be required to set up their own FOI-complaint websites within two years after the law takes into effect.

"Government agencies will use plain language and if possible, translate important information into major Filipino dialects so that people will be able to appreciate the information better. Dapat madaling maintindihan ang mga data at impormasyon," she said.

Poe said government officers who violate the FOI Act will be criminally and administratively liable with penalties ranging from suspension or dismissal from service to imprisonment of not less than a month but not more than six months.
 

BUT POE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION GOVERNMENT INFORMATION LIABILITIES AND NEW WORTH OFFICIAL GAZETTE POE PUBLIC INFORMATION AND MASS MEDIA SENATE BILL NO SENATE COMMITTEE SENATOR GRACE POE
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