On FOI bill: Sen.Sotto wants online seekers of gov’t information identified

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SENATE deputy minority leader Vicente Sotto 3rd could once be in a collision course with netizens with his suggestion to require seekers of public information to identify themselves first before being allowed to downloading government documents especially those containing sensitive matters.

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Sotto, during the first day of the interpellation period on the proposed people’s freedom of information (FOI) bill Tuesday afternoon, noted that if the measure would allow public to freely access public documents it should be done equally.

Under the proposed bill anyone can access government information, except those that has something to do with national security and the likes, just by submitting a request to the concerned government office.

The concerned public office has 15 days to provide the needed information or documents or face sanction.

According to Sotto the process is different online, wherein anyone can access government information on the website of any government agency instantly and anonymously.

Unlike those who are getting information personally who need to submit a written request, online users can just download the needed documents without providing any identification.

“This is what we like to point there should be a system that will identify those who want to get government information, especially if the document contains sensitive matters,” Sotto said.

He said congress should put some safeguards in order to prevent government information from being abused or exploited.

As for the penalties to be imposed against public offices that will not comply with the FOI bill, Sotto said that he sees no problem with it noting that it is only right to penalize those that will violate the law.

Sotto and other lawmakers as well as President Benigno Aquino 3rd were heavily criticized by netizens following the passage and the singing into law the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Online users and other organizations insisted the law violates the people right to free expression particularly the provisions which allows the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take down a website without a court warrant, the one that allows authorities to obtain traffic data and the cyber libel.

The proposed FOI bill in the senate is currently on the period of interpellations stage wherein lawmakers are given a chance to question provisions on the measure which they find unacceptable or needs revisions.

After interpellation period, the chamber will then proceed to the period of amendments to fine tune the measure and submit it for approval on second reading.

Since the Senate only have three remaining session this year, Sotto said chances of the FOI bill being approved on third and final reading this year are slim. Jefferson Antiporda

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