The Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives has filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) bill that sets no complicated restrictions.
The bloc, composed of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Anakpawis and Kabataan party-list, filed House Bill 334 that wil mandate the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government as well as constitutional bodies provide for public scrutiny official information and matters of public concern and interest in any form.
The Makabayan bloc described its bill “authentic” because it removed provisions that provides for exceptions. The only limitation that the measure provides is when public documents are requested “to abet or promote or commit crime or wrongdoing or to engage in sheer and idle curiosity.”
“A government which has nothing to hide should not be afraid of an informed and enlightened citizenry. Exemptions have often been the cause for the lackadaisical exercise of access to matters of public concern. By the restatement of the exceptions to levels capable of ordinary understanding, this bill reduces instances of brash rejection of requests for access to official information and in the process stresses the basic postulate that the people can be trusted with information which in the first place they ought to know being the source of all government authority,” the Makabayan said in its explanatory note.
Among the official information, records, and matters of public concern and interest covered by the bill are official acts of public officers done in the pursuit of their official functions; judicial or quasi-judicial decisions or orders as well as records of court cases in whatever stage, and policy decisions of public officers, boards, commissions or tribunals; transactions, contracts and agreements (including negotiations or definite propositions of the government leading to the consummation of the transactions, contracts and agreements); government research data used as basis for policy development, execution of transactions, contracts and agreements; laws, policies, rules and procedure, work programs, projects and performance targets, performance reports; public and private writings coming into the hands of public officers in connection with their official functions; books of account, ledgers, and other documents of whatever nature or character used as basis for applications, reports or returns or other documents regardless of nature or character submitted to the government; among others.
“This bill puts in place a uniform, simple, speedy and effective means of enforcing the right to information. It organizes the scope of the guarantee by codifying definitions of its coverage; provides a corrective measure against anti-people and criminal acts and institutes precise penalties for unlawful denial of access to official information,” the bloc pointed out.
“The people’s right to official information is an indispensable element of a functioning democracy. The ideal of a government by the people presupposes that the people collectively and individually have access to information on matters of public concern in order for them to effectively exercise their sovereignty,” they added.
Any government agency or public officer or employee who will be found guilty of denying access to information without valid ground will be slapped a P20,000 fine or jailed from six months to six years.