The passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill into law is needed to regain the people’s trust amid the outrage of the massive misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), an administration lawmaker said on Tuesday.
Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo of Camarines Sur province, the wife of the late Interior secretary Jesse Robredo, made the pronouncement a day after the Million People March in Luneta which called for the abolition of the PDAF—a policy that allows lawmakers to identify projects and the beneficiaries of their PDAF allocation in their respective district or sector (for party-list representatives).
The FOI implements the right of the people to information on matters of public concern and the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest thru mandatory posting of wealth statement of public officials and access to information being used for decision making or project management, including transcripts and minutes of official meetings, provided that there is a legitimate request.
Robredo’s version of the FOI is her Full Disclosure bill which mandates government agencies to reveal its budget spending as well as its financial transactions even without a request from the public.
“If the people have access to information at any given time, they will be informed where their taxes go. They will be more trusting and cooperative in how the government runs the country. We need that cooperation. My Full Disclosure bill is very vital in addressing the PDAF issue,” Robredo, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) argued during the weekly Ugnayan sa Batasan Forum.
Robredo was alluding to National Bureau of Investigation’s probe on the alleged P10 billion worth of PDAF which was granted to bogus nongovernment organizations ran by fugitive businesswoman Janet Napoles.
During the 2010 campaign trail, then LP Presidential candidate and Sen. Benigno Aquino 3rd has promised to push for the passage of the FOI bill into law. The Aquino administration has been in office for three years but the FOI bill is still gathering dust in the House of Representatives.
“On my measure [Full Disclosure Bill], I don’t see anything objectionable there because the more transparent we are, the most trusting the people would be. What is crucial for the success of any office or institution is public trust. At the end of the day, it is your constituency who will determine if you succeeded or not,” Robredo pointed out.
“I am all for any measure for transparency, accountability and people’s participation in governance and I am very hopeful that this will be pushed [towards its passage]. We already had a lot of gains under the administration. We cannot let it go to waste just because of mistrust [of the public],” Robredo added.
In pushing for FOI, Robredo cited that collaborative action among legislators should be present, considering the lingering opposition of a number of lawmakers that the measure may be abused and used to besmirch their reputation.
“If we find it difficult to push for a certain measure, we should be collaborative rather than adversarial. We should find out the fears of certain offices on the measure and look for solutions. Otherwise, everything will be stalled and we can’t achieve anything,” Robredo said in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI