FOI BILL: Sponsorship Speech by Sen. Sonny Angara

Thank you Madam Chair (Sen. Grace Poe).

Good morning to all the officials and resource persons present.

This is a sponsorship speech for SB 1219. The Act to strengthen the right of the citizens to information held by the government.

Tama po yung binanggit ng ating Chairman na yung karapatan ng ating mga mamamayan para sa impormasyon na opisyal o publiko ang karakter ay naka-enshrine sa ating Saligang Batas. And considering na tayo po ang pinakamaagang naging demokrasya sa Asya, parang hindi ata tama na napipigilan ang ating mga mamamayan sa pagkuha ng impormasyon. Kung baga parang maaga nga natin nakuha ang demokrasya, hindi naman natin napalalim itong kalidad ng ating demokrasya over the years.

Madam Chair, I think, If we want to have a peaceful revolution in this country, this is how we can have it–by passing this bill. Para gumana ang demokrasya, dapat na isaalang-alang ang karapatan ng mamamayan na mabatid o malaman ang mga opisyal na impormasyon.

We can debate about the details but I think, in the current atmosphere, what’s dominating the news, I think there is no doubt in the need for this bill to be passed and we can talk about the details later on. But allow me to say Madam Chair, that I’ve been sponsoring this bill since my early days in Congress and talagang dati walang pumapansin dito, Madam Chair, sa totoo lang. But ngayon parang naha-higlight na siya at nakikita ng madla kung ano ang kahalagahan ng isang Information Bill. Hanggang ngayon nararamdaman ko parin, because when I look around me and I see the same faces. I see Vince Lazatin of Transparency, I see Atty. Nepo of the Right to Know Now Coalition, they were there since the early days. But I think what the body has to do going forward, Madam Chair, is to expand this network. Humihingi kami ng tulong sa media na ipaalam sa tao kung ano yung kahalagahan, dati yung pangalan is Access to Information, ngayon Freedom of Information Bill ang pangalan niya.

Ito ay isyu ng bituka actually. Noong nanalo si PNoy noong 2010, sinabi na Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap. Ang problema naman Kung Walang FOI, Lumalago ang Corrupt. Kaya sa totoo lang, hindi tumitigil ang korapsyon kung wala tayong impormasyon. Kasi mahirap kumuha ng ebidensya laban sa, kita natin, yung mga whistleblowers natin hirap na hirap. So maaaring kailangan natin ng Whistleblowers Protection. But at the end of the day, it is better to have many eyes watching the government rather than one set of eyes. Like the COA or the Ombudsman. Kasi kung iilang mata lang yan, hindi naman nakikita o hindi naman natatanaw ang buong horizon o ang buong kalagayan ng ating body politic.

Ang kahilingan po, sabi nga ng Chairman, there are close to 70 countries which have passed the FOI statutes, at hindi coincidence na karamihan sa mga pinaka-transparent na society sa ating bansa ay yun din ang pinakamayaman na bansa sa mundo. And we’re not talking about mayaman in terms of GNP, dahil yung GNP minsan nadi-distort. Mayaman nga ang bansa pero marami naman ang mahirap sa loob ng bansa.

We’re talking about countries na mayaman ang mga mamamayan. Kasi ginagastos ng pamahalaan ang pera para sa mamamayan. We’re talking about Singapore where they make about $30,000 GDP per capita o bawat indibidwal. We’re talking about Scandinavian countries like, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Nothern Countries.

So this is not a coincidence. May koneksyon po ito. Ito ang koneksyon na dapat i-pursue natin, ipaalam natin kay Juan dela Cruz na mayroon siyang interes ditto. Hindi lamang ito laban ng mga interested citizens, mga concerned NGO’s against the government, ito po ay interes dahil ang pagiging government officials, it’s always a dialogue between the governed and those governing. And tumitigil ang dayalogo kung walang impormasyon. Hindi lumalaim ang dayalogo.

There are recognized exemptions in some countries and these are flesh in the bill. For example sa Section 7: We have national security – this are under executive orders, in the defense, foreign affairs kapag may treaty at sa stage palang ng negotiations, syempre hindi pwedeng ilabas yun dahil the would jeopardize our bargaining position. Secondly, yung executive privilege na there’s already SC decision, yung ermita case, that it says the executive is to freely ventilate its concerns, this negotiations and ideas must be kept confidential.

Yung third is internatl and external defense, whether sa military establishment or sa PNP. SYempre kung may hinuhuli ka na enemies of the state na kailangang dalhin sa batas, hindi naman nating pwedeng i-expose yung mag sikreto. Fourth is draft of decisions and orders. Fifth is information obtained by congress in executive sessions.

Sixth is personal information. Dapat isa-alangalang din ng kongreso yung rights to the privacy of the individuals. Dahil maraming ahensya ng gobyerno that would have those information like phone numbers. Seventh is trade secrets- dahil may right din naman yung negosyo sa mga patented ideas dahil pinaghirapan yun.

At yung pangwalo yung tinatawag na privilege communications sa ilalim ng rules of court. Ito po yung mga idea na kunwari ibinigay sa mga attorney- Attorney-client privilege, medical information given under the doctor-patient privilege, confessions in the course of the confession and many others provided under the rules of court.

Yung pangsiyam po, information maybe exempted by law or the constitution. To give you an example, Madam Chair, under the Juvenile Justice Law, yung mga juvenile violators, yung information is meant to be kept secret. Kasi bata pa sila, ayaw natin na magamit yung information laban sa kanila pag tanda po nila. The idea behind that law is to not punish youth offenders but to allow them to be restored to society. Yun po yung mga recognized exemptions, Madam Chair. I think the debates would center around that.

In closing, allow me to say that in present, we have a president who value transparency. Araw-araw pwede syang lapitan ng media. Kahit anong tanong, wala pong hinaharang, lahat po sinasagot. But that’s only for the next 3 years. Hindi natin alam kung anong mangyayari sa 2016. Hindi natin alam kung anong mangyayari sa 2019, sa 2022. Kailangan, as lawmakers, we should be looking forward to next generations. And definitely, ito po ang nakikita kong sandata laban sa korapsyon.

Thank you Madam Chair, for giving us this time.

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