House panel okays FOI bill

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THE House Committee on Public Information has approved the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) bill that will make government activities transparent.

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The panel, led by Rep. Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list, consolidated 35 versions of the FOI measure that will cover all government agencies in the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches as well as constitutional bodies.

“We are working for the swift enactment into law of the FOI bill, considering that this is one of the priorities of the Duterte administration. We hope that, with the support of the House leadership, we will soon be able to take up the FOI bill in plenary,” Tinio said in a statement.

Tinio said the FOI bill embodies two aspects of the “right to information” as mandated by the 1987 Constitution: full public disclosure and citizens’ access to information.

“Full public disclosure provides that every Filipino, without the need of request, should be able to get information on government records and transactions. The approved FOI also reiterates the Constitution’s mandate to disclose the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth of certain officials,” Tinio said.

“The policy of full public disclosure is not fully fleshed out in our current laws. The FOI bill seeks to address that gap,” he added.

The FOI measure, however, still has a lengthy list of exceptions contained in two pages.

The general exceptions include information on national security; classified information (subject to mandatory declassification review after six years); exchanges during an executive session; trade secrets; invasion of personal privacy unless such information is specifically required by law; and privileged communications, among others.

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