MANILA – Sen. Grace Poe on Tuesday refiled the Freedom of Information Bill as she stressed the importance of transparency and accountability in government.
Poe, chairperson of the Senate public information committee, failed to have similar legislation passed in past years. The FOI Bill was among the first she filed for the 18th Congress which will start at the end of July.
"Transparency is essential to accountability. Without transparency, citizens cannot access the information needed to collectively discern the fitness of public officials, elected otherwise, to hold public office," Poe said in the explanatory note of her bill.
"I appeal to our colleagues to give this bill one big push this 18th Congress so we will finally have an FOI law," Poe said.
President Rodrigo Duterte in July 2016 signed Executive Order No. 2 adopting and implementing a policy of “full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest, subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law.”
This FOI mechanism, however, only applies to the executive branch. The President urged the legislative and judiciary branches to follow suit.
Poe’s bill tasks all government agencies to upload on their respective websites "updated copies of transactions, records or documents of public interest."
The bill states that no request for information shall be denied, except for matters involving national security, law enforcement, foreign affairs, and trade secrets.
All information exempted from disclosure shall undergo mandatory review after every three years by the head of office or agency in custody or control of the information for "reclassification and possible disclosure."
Poe also filed the Right to Adequate Food Act of 2019, Water Regulatory Act of 2019, Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management System Act of 2019, and National Transportation Safety Board Act of 2019.
Completing her first 10 bills for the 18th Congress are the Universal Social Pension Act 2019, Tulong Kabataan sa Agrikultura Act of 2019, Motorcycles-for-Hire Act of 2019, Social Media Awareness in Schools and Universities Act of 2019, and Magna Carta for Tricycle Drivers and Operators Act of 2019.