House leader calls for passage of FOI bill

MANILA -- The chairman of the House Committee on Public Information is calling for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill which has been pending with the Committee on Appropriations since last February.

Bagong Henerasyon Partylist Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy made the call in a press conference at the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

As Chairman of the Committee on Public Information, I can only urge my colleagues who sit on the Appropriations Committee to expedite the FOI bill at the soonest. It is understandable though that with the ongoing hearings on the 2018 budget that Appropriations is quite busy, Herrera-Dy said.

Herrera-Dy said the appropriations committee may possibly tackle the budgetary requirements for the FOI bill once the deliberations on the proposed 2018 budget are finished by the latter half of September.

Perhaps the soonest the Appropriations Committee can pay attention to the FOI bill would be in the last week of September as the House already set September 21 as the target date for the transmission of the approved version of the budget bill to the Senate, Herrera-Dy said.

The FOI bill embodies the two aspects of the right to information as mandated by the 1987 Constitution, namely, full public disclosure and citizens' access to information.

The measure reiterates the Constitution's mandate to disclose the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth of certain officials.

Public interest documents or records, such as contracts with the private sector and those which are budget-related, are required to be published by government agencies on their websites.

The bill also mandates every citizen's right to ask for and receive information from government, subject only to a limited number of exceptions.

Herrera-Dy said the bill provides that the government may disallow or prohibit disclosure of information, in the following circumstances:

If it could cause serious damage to national security and our country's internal and/or external defense;

If it could unduly weaken our country's bargaining position in international negotiations or seriously jeopardize diplomatic relations with other countries;

If it could compromise law enforcement operations and endanger the life of an individual;

If it is obtained by Congress in executive session;

If it is within the executive privilege;

If consists of drafts of the following: orders, resolutions, decisions, memos or audit reports by any executive, administrative, regulatory, constitutional, judicial or quasi-judicial body in exercise of their adjudicatory or audit function;

If it is a trade secret; and

If the information requested would constitute an unwarranted invasion of an individual's right to privacy.

The bill also sets the procedure of requesting for access to information and documents up to appeal in case of denial.

Administrative and criminal liabilities for violation of the right to information will also be put in place through this measure.

Source: Philippine News Agency