Freedom of Information (FOI): A Key to Freedom from Debt and Economic Justice
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) joins the growing public clamor for the government to take decisive action on the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill in the 15th Congress. FDC believes that an FOI Law is a key to freedom from debt and to economic and social justice.
An FOI Law is a landmark measure that will ensure our constitutional right to information and an effective tool to fight corruption, and will ingrain the culture of transparency and accountability in government.
An FOI Law is a key to empower our people to assert their economic, social and other human rights such as the right to oppose harmful economic and social policies, the right to participate in the country's economic development and to effectively avail of government services and programs. An enlightened citizenry is an empowered one. A people fully aware of their rights and the issues, policies and programs that affect them will be easily galvanized to take action against abuse of power, corruption and bad policies and programs.
An FOI law favors the right of information deemed of public interest. These include vital information on issues and concerns closes to FDC – the debt issues, privatization of power, water and public services, climate finance and gender justice, among others. While the law provides exceptions for disclosure, it allows clear mechanism for the public to argue for a greater and overriding interest in favor of access and disclosure. An FOI Law sanctions and penalizes officials and agencies concerned who refuse access to information. Government is also required to compulsory disclose information on transactions involving public interest.
With an FOI Law, the public will be enabled to access investments and loan contracts and other economic deals entered into by government in the name of tax-payers. Debts incurred by the government and are passed on to taxpayers as debt burdens can be scrutinized, whether they benefited the people or were illegitimate ones. Vital information involving contracts and agreements that led to the privatization of public utilities and vital services like those in power and water will be made available to the consumers. Public spending on the Gender and Development (GAD) and other development budgets can also be effectively monitored.
We therefore call on the Aquino government to take action on the FOI Bill now. Time is running out, but we believe that all it takes is the Aquino government's sincerity and political will to let this landmark bill enacted – just as it has demonstrated its decisive and swift actions to put former Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona to trial, and to push for the passage of its favored laws such as the unpopular Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The failure of the government to take action now is not only unacceptable; it will expose its rhetoric of "Matuwid na Daan" as hollow and sham.