Taking off from what former Senator Joker Arroyo said days ago, “Sinira ng DAP ang ‘daang matuwid’ ni PNoy. (DAP destroyed the ‘straight path’ of President Aquino.) Because of this, you cannot explain ‘where did P147 billion to P250 billion go?’ How can you claim honesty and integrity?” DAP refers to the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Taking the point of view of Freedom on Information (FOI) Bill sponsor, Senator Grace Poe, who said: “This will institutionalize transparency in government, so that whoever is in power, from the barangay captain to the President, no one is allowed to keep information from the public, except for those things cited as exemptions if the FOI is enacted . . . Nagkaroon ng PDAF scandal kasi hindi ninyo alam ang nangyayari sa gobyerno.” (A DAP scandal erupted because you didn’t know what was happening in government.)
The FOI bill was filed in Congress almost 22 years ago, but was passed in the Senate only in March 2014. When can we expect it to pass in the Lower House?
But why do controversial issues like DAP or PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) take so much time to resolve? Simple. There is no substantial information to rely on as evidence. No information because it must have been stored somewhere that could not be traced; related documents must have been lost or shredded.
This brings me to institutional memory, which is a collective set of facts related to transactions of private or government organizations. Memory depends upon the preservation of data and this could be very effective if we comply with RA 8792 or the e-Commerce Act of 2000.
The said law would facilitate domestic and international dealings, transactions, arrangements, agreements, contracts and exchanges, and storage of information through the utilization of electronic, optical and similar medium, mode, instrumentality and technology. The aim is to recognize the authenticity and reliability of electronic documents related to such activities, and to promote the universal use of electronic transaction in the government and general public.
That means that the business processes of the government agencies should have been computerized as of year 2002. Access to information in government should, therefore, be easy. That makes institutional memory really ‘unforgettable’ especially if data or information are made available in the ‘cloud.’
What’s good about compliance with RA 8792 is that top officials, including our dear President, would have the information at their own fingertips, and they could decide quickly based on available facts. It’s actually an enabler of the FOI, if it is passed. And it’s more than the usual good governance that we have been hearing from our national and local officials since 1986. It’s called electronic governance or merely good eGovernance.
After 14 years, (22 years for the FOI Bill), compliance with RA 8792 has been moving like snail mail as only a few government agencies are considered compliant (e.g., Bureau of Internal Revenue, Central Bank, Trade and Industry department).
Ask the government agencies affected by DAP and PDAF if they are compliant with RA 8792. If they say yes, then we can ask them, “Show us proof! Post the relevant information in your respective web sites so that we, Filipinos, could access these easily.” If I were the adviser of President Noynoy I would have included in his statement, “Mga boss, visit www.op.gov.ph for the details of the DAP expenditures.” That’s transparency and that’s ‘good faith’.
Two more years remain for this administration to finally pass the FOI Bill. Enact it this year for the realization of good eGovernance.
The author teaches at the Decision Sciences and Innovation Department of the Ramon del V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.