Press Release
May 7, 2008



Senator Mar Roxas said he is looking forward to deliberations in the Senate on a measure that would ensure that the public's right to information is upheld, at a time when the administration has tended to stonewall calls for the truth, transparency and accountability.

This, as he lauded the House's action on a similar measure, led by the efforts of Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada, a fellow Liberal and House sponsor of the bill.

"Napakahalaga na mayroon tayong ganitong batas, lalo na sa panahon ngayon na napakababa ang tiwala ng taumbayan sa pamahalaan at sa mga institusyon nito (Having such a law is important especially at a time when the trust of the people on its government and its institutions is low)," the Liberal Party President said.

"Free access to information is not only a Constitutional right: it is also a practical tool to eliminate corruption, improve government services and uplift the economy in the end. The nation's development must be founded on trust and dialogue between the people and the State fueled by the free flow of information," he added.

The House passed its own version of the bill on second reading last week. It is set to be included in the House agenda this coming Monday, for third and final reading.

Senator Mar Roxas had proposed Senate Bill No. 109, the proposed Free Information Act, at the start of the 14th Congress. As per Senate records, the bill is still pending with the Senate Committees on Public Information and Mass Media, and on Civil Service and Government Reorganization.

"The Senate has fought for truth and accountability in light of the ZTE-NBN controversy and on other issues. Thus, I'm confident that the Senate will also act positively on such a reform measure," he said.

Roxas had called for the release of information on matters of public concern, such as the minutes of the NEDA-ICC relative to the ZTE-NBN deal; details of revenues from taxes and the sale of various assets; details on importation, on spending and on other plans of government relative to the rice crisis, among others.

Senate Bill No. 109 seeks to require government offices to answer all queries for information within two days, under pain of stiff penalties, unless sufficient justification is given. An office may only refuse to provide information when this would jeopardize the privacy of individuals, national security, public order, foreign diplomatic and economic relations, and trade secrets of private entities.

To compel disclosure of information in case a government body refuses on whatever grounds, the bill mandates the Office of the Ombudsman to hear any complaints of not being properly assisted by the pertinent government body.

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