EDITORIAL - Waiting for freedom of information
(The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2012 - 12:00am

It’s been 26 years since democracy was restored and media censorship by a dictatorial regime ended. The so-called Freedom Constitution that was ratified in 1987 guaranteed, among other things, full transparency and accountability in the conduct of public servants, and full public disclosure of information vested with public interest. The Constitution also upheld the people’s right to know and be informed about all policies, projects, and programs of government that involve the use of public funds.

Today, 26 years and five presidents since the people power revolt, democracy has endured. But one inalienable freedom guaranteed by the Constitution has been stuck for 14 years in the legislative mill. The passage of the Freedom of Information or FOI Act has not been given priority even under the presidency of the only son of democracy icons Ninoy and Cory Aquino. Benigno Simeon Aquino III rose to power on the promise of promoting transparency and delivering good governance. The FOI law is an invaluable tool in fulfilling his promise.

Filipinos can be licentious in the exercise of rights, and some of the concerns raised on the FOI bill are not entirely baseless. But for democracy to endure and be strong, it is always better to err on the side of freedom. If there are any weaknesses in a law, it can always be amended. The right to information provides protection against government abuse and promotes accountability among those who are sworn to serve the people.

In the past 14 years, the FOI bill has undergone numerous adjustments to balance the people’s right to information with interests for reasonable confidentiality, sound administrative practice and personal privacy. This balancing process has already been exhausted. Yet personal and speculative fears of the people’s exercise of the right to know continue to prevent the passage of the FOI law.

With time fast running out on the 15th Congress, the long wait for the FOI Act should have been over yesterday. The time for decision is now.

BENIGNO SIMEON AQUINO DEMOCRACY FOI FREEDOM FREEDOM CONSTITUTION FREEDOM OF INFORMATION INFORMATION NINOY AND CORY AQUINO PEOPLE PUBLIC RIGHT
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