Press Release
September 4, 2013

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's opening statement on the FOI Bill

The following senators present with us today, Senator JV Ejercito and Senator Sonny Angara. If there is any particular forum where we should expect to be able to freely express ourselves, it could probably be in the forum of Freedom of Information. But, I'm sure most of you here will agree that this bill is urgent as it is necessary, and we would like to cover as many resource speakers as possible, and so may I request, without having to sacrifice the content and the salient point of the presentation, to please keep your presentation to a minimum of 3 to 5 minutes, and also if you can please answer the question as briefly but concise as possible so we would be able to cover more topics.

The Freedom of Information Bill is long overdue. If you recall the FOI Bill almost approved during the previous Congress, approved here though in the senate. Additionally, but the legislators then were focused on passing on other pertinent bills. I'm confident that we will be able to secure the passage of the FOI Bill this 16th Congress. For one I can sense that there is a genuine public clamor for it. In fact, the support for the FOI bill reached the tipping point after the Million People March a week ago.

Today, a majority of our senators have openly declare that they are in favor of the FOI Bill. Marami po ang naniniwala at umaasa na ang FOI Law ang sagot sa problema natin sa mga maling nakasanayan. This is because that many people believe that the long term or the strategic solution to the corruption problem is by making government records and transactions accessible and available to the general public. Basically, the FOI Act seeks to apply the sunshine principle in government. Sikatan ng Araw. That we need to expose all public transactions to the sunshine of public scrutiny.

The FOI Bill is a full recognition of our constitution declared in the bill of rights that "The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records and to documents and records pertaining to official actions, transactions or decisions as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizens subject to such limitations as maybe provided by the law. There are numerous research studies would show that the Freedom of Information indeed results in the dramatic reduction in corruption. One study found that the FOI law had a strong impact in improving the prosecution rate of graft cases.

In the United States for instance, the number of court convictions nearly doubled in the first 3 to 8 years after their FOI law was strengthened. Aside from improving the conviction rate in graft cases, the experience in other countries shows that greater public access to information actually contributed to making governmental institutions more accountable and more responsive to the needs of the people. Kung maipapasa din natin ngayon ang FOI, ang ating bansa ay mapapabilang sa hanay ng 93 bansa sa buong mundo na may kaukulang batas tungkol sa freedom of information. May halos 50 bansa naman ang nasa kasalukuyang pagsasa-ayos ng kanilang FOI. Pero hindi po sa lahat ng pagkakataon naging matagumpay sa mga bansang meron na nito.

Sa isa ngang pag-aaral ko, marami ngang bansa ang may freedom of information, in name only but not in spirit. Ayaw po natin mangyari ito sa ating bansa. Na magpapasa po tayo ng isang batas dahil sa pagmamadali pero napakahirap naman pong i-implementa ng tama. Ngunit siguro, ang pinakamahalaga ngayon ay magpasa tayo ng isang batas na tutugon sa pangangailangan ng ating mga kababayan.

Batas na maliwanag at maiintindihan ng marami. Batas sa FOI na nagsilbing gabay natin ngayon at sa kinabukasan.

Gamitin natin ang magagandang karanasan ng mga bansa tulad ng New Zealand, Sweden, Mexico na may matibay na batas sa FOI. Gamitin natin ang magiging batas na ito sa panimula at sandigan ng ating mga mamamayan para magtiwala sa gobyerno. At sa mga institusyong demokratiko.

Using these facts as background, may I now acknowledge and call our resource speakers for today's public hearing.

The sponsorship for this measure will be afforded by our senators present today, Senator JV Ejercito from San Juan.

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