03 February 2016

Break-Up Letter for the 16th Congress

Imbis na mapasa ang People's Freedom of Information Act, napaasa lang kami. 

Naniniwala na kami na may forever, salamat sa inyo—forever na mahahadlangan ang pagsasabatas ng napakahalagang panukalang ito. Hindi pa rin namin maintindihan kung saan nanggagaling ang takot ninyo sa FOI... O baka in denial lang din kami. Alam naman nating kapag walang tinatago, wala ring dapat ikatakot. 

Sabi nga ng iba, may tamang panahon. Matagal na 'yang dumating para sa FOI—mula pa noong ibinalik ang demokrasya mula sa diktadurya; mula pa noong nabuo ang Saligang Batas. Ipinangako ng Konstitusyon ang kalayaan sa impormasyon, pero ipinako niyo naman ito. Hindi na dapat tayo naghahanap ng tamang panahon kasi nandiyan na 'yan. Ang dapat na hinahanap namin ay 'yung tamang mga tao; 'yung hindi sarili ang iniisip at hindi kami iiwanan; at 'yung kayang maging bukas at tapat sa amin.

Hanggang sa kahuli-hulihan, hindi kami bumitaw. Maraming nagsabi noon pa na patay na ang FOI. Hindi kami naniwala. Akala namin kaya pa. Pero maraming nasasawi sa maling akala. 

Ngayon, panahon na para mag-move on na kami—mag-move on mula sa mga paasang mambabatas at sa mga pangakong napapako. Ang eleksyon ang panahon para maghanap ng bago, ng iba—'yung kapareho namin ng priorities, 'yung alam ang pangarap namin at kaya itong ibigay at ipaglaban katulad ng FOI champions namin.

Paalam, 16th Congress. Hindi pala tayo meant to be.  

Patuloy na lalaban, 
FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)

FOI Youth Initiative: Congress failed the Constitution

The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines was ratified by a nationwide plebiscite on February 2, 1987, exactly 29 years ago.

Article III, Section 7 states that "[t]he right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law."

29 years have passed and we still do not have a law that will enable our right to information. The 16th Congress has failed to deliver on its promise to pass the People's Freedom of Information Act (House Bill No. 5801), which is also the same as failing the Constitution that it has committed to uphold and protect.

We in the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) express our utmost indignation against the leaders of Congress who led us to believe that the People's FOI Act was their priority. We condemn the legislators who connived in silence to prevent this important measure from even reaching the plenary floor. 

However, amid our frustration, we would like to thank our FOI champions led by Representatives Teddy Baguilat, Kaka Bag-ao, Leni Robredo, Dina Abad, Barry Gutierrez, Em Aglipay-Villar, Leah Paquiz, and Gus Tambunting for their inspiring leadership in the campaign for transparency and accountability in government against seemingly insurmountable odds.

As we close our 16th Congress campaign, we in the FYI are grateful for the support of the 256 youth organizations that joined our ranks for the past three years as we struggled to institutionalize honesty and openness in government through the People's FOI Act. We also thank our elders in the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition for helping us amplify the voice of the youth in this fight.

Now, our resolve remains steadfast. As the elections draw near, we will ensure that our members from all over the country will help elect candidates who will deliver on the promise to enact FOI into law and shun those who hide behind the prevailing shroud that covers their corrupt practices in government. 

Tuloy ang laban ng kabataan para sa isang pamahalaang bukas at may pananagutan!

11 September 2015

Youth groups: 'All eyes on Congress!'

11 September 2015 — The National Youth Commission, together with the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) and Akbayan Youth, held a press conference to reiterate the call for the passage of the People's Freedom of Information Act. 

NYC Chairperson Gio Tingson declared that "all eyes are on FOI and on Congress." He added that since the House of Representatives in the 16th Congress was able to shepherd the approval of several youth measures, it must also pass the People's FOI Act, which will ultimately benefit young Filipinos. 

Nic Angeles of FYI and UP ALYANSA supported Tingson's statement by saying that "the youth will eventually take the reins of leadership in this country, and [they] want to inherit a government that is worthy of the people's trust." The FYI will continue and strengthen its efforts to lobby for the enactment of the People's FOI Act as it invites more young people to join its campaign for transparency and accountability in all levels of government. 

[Bantay Batasan] FOI Timeline

Where are we now in our struggle to pass the People's Freedom of Information Act in the House of Representatives? Find out through this infographic brought to you by the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)!

30 August 2015

[FYI in the Philippine Star] FOI bill still a priority – Speaker

by Paolo Romero

MANILA, Philippines - The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill remains a priority of the House of Representatives despite criticism from transparency groups that the chamber is not acting on the landmark measure, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said yesterday.

Belmonte said the FOI bill was among the measures listed by both leaders of the House and Senate last month as prioritized for passage before the campaign period for the 2016 elections starts in February.

“Our list of priorities remains unchanged and our timetable and agenda is still the same,” Belmonte told reporters, adding that “as soon as there is an opportunity to pass it, we’ll do so.”

The Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, a national coalition of groups and individuals campaigning for transparency and accountability in government, has released a statement declaring the “death” of the FOI bill in Congress.

The measure, which was a consolidation of 20 bills filed by several lawmakers, has been passed at the committee level but has yet to be presented in plenary for approval on second reading.

The counterpart bill in the Senate was already passed on third and final reading.

Earlier, authors of the FOI bill expressed disappointment that President Aquino did not push for the approval of the transparency measure in his last State of the Nation Address.

ParaƱaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting, one of the authors of the measure, said Aquino would have gained more support from the public had he mentioned the FOI bill.

“I had expected him to push for the FOI bill since he was supposed to be for transparency in government,” Tambunting said.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, one of the authors of the measure, said he hopes the House will pass the bill soon.

“We are looking forward to the plenary debates on the bill which are certainly bound to be challenging,” Akbayan party-list Rep. Barry Gutierrez, also an author, said in a statement.

“We are already prepared to answer any and all questions relating to the various issues and concerns about the FOI,” he said.

The FOI bill covers all government offices in the executive, legislative and judicial branches as well as constitutional bodies.

The transparency measure seeks to make available for public scrutiny, copying and reproduction all information pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions as well government research data used as basis for policy development.

It, however, also makes certain exemptions, including information that is specifically authorized to be kept secret such as those relating to national security; records of minutes and opinions expressed during the policy-formulation invoked by the President as privileged; information gathered by any congressional committee in executive session; and information whose disclosure will constitute unwarranted invasion of privacy.

Reps. Leni Robredo of Camarines Sur and Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, who are also among the authors of the FOI bill, cited other major youth groups – such as the FOI Youth Initiative – that have not lost hope for the measure.

“We are glad that their optimism remains firm in the fight for the passage of this important measure. At the end of the day, progressive legislation can only be enacted not just through the efforts of lawmakers, but through active citizenship and people’s participation,” Robredo said.

“If they say that there is still hope, it is our duty as their representatives to ensure that their aspiration will be fulfilled,” Bag-ao said.

24 August 2015

'The fight for FOI is still alive' —FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)

We are the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI), a network of more than 200 youth and student organizations from all over the Philippines that seek the passage of the People's Freedom of Information Act. We are part of the Right to Know, Right Now! (R2KRN) Coalition, a national alliance of groups and individuals campaigning for transparency and accountability in government. We have been active in many efforts to push for the enactment of the said measure—from participating in mass actions and lobbying activities to being one of the co-sponsors of the People's FOI Act filed through indirect initiative in both Houses of Congress.

Recently, the R2KRN Coalition released a statement declaring the FOI Bill as "dead". Upon consulting our members, we decided not to be a signatory primarily due to the fact that, as the youth, it is an imperative for us to remain hopeful in the legislative struggle. As mentioned in the statement, the campaign has went on for 15 years already. The FYI is only 3 years old, and we believe that we can still do so much more, just like our elders and predecessors. We are not saying that we will wait for another decade for us to be able to join in the Coalition's current pronouncement. We simply want to preserve a glimmer of hope for our members and our fellow young Filipinos. 

We respect the assessment of the R2KRN Coalition. Even if we are not a signatory of the statement, we acknowledge the circumstances surrounding the progress of the measure in the legislative mill. With this, we strongly reiterate our call to President Benigno S. Aquino III, Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr., and House Majority Leader Neptali M. Gonzales II to fulfill the promise of change of this Administration by showing a sincere and tangible initiative to ensure that the People's FOI Act is passed into law.

It is clear that none of us in the FYI and the R2KRN Coalition have given up. As mentioned in their statement, "our fight for an effective, working, and living FOI, lives on." We are one with them in this call. The FYI will continue the task of lobbying in Congress to convince legislators that the People's FOI Act must finally be approved. We call on the youth to contact their Representatives to tell them to uphold their duty to embody our aspirations as their constituents by saying YES to FOI. 

In simpler words, it ain't over 'til it's over.

29 November 2014

FOI Infographics from DLSU TeamComm and POLISCY

Know more about Freedom of Information through these infographics from our partner organizations, Team Communication (TeamComm) and Political Science Society (POLISCY) of De La Salle University - Manila

28 November 2014

Statement of the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) on the November 24 committee approval of the People's FOI Act

"Young people are the greatest stakeholders of Freedom of Information. The youth, empowered by FOI, will be the most effective changemakers in our country. This is why I call on them to continue to strengthen their efforts to campaign for the passage of the People's FOI Act." 

This was what Rep. Teddy Baguilat (Lone District, Ifugao) told the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) after the House Committee on Public Information hearing last November 24, 2014 when the measure was approved.

We welcome this development in our struggle to pass the People's FOI Act into law. Likewise, we thank our FOI champions and authors in the House led by Representatives Baguilat, Kaka Bag-ao (Lone District, Dinagat Islands), Leni Robredo (3rd District, Camarines Sur), Emmeline Aglipay-Villar (DIWA Party-List), Dina Abad (Lone District, Batanes), Leah Paquiz (ANG NARS Party-List), and Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello (Akbayan Party-List) for consistently defending and upholding the people's right to information. We also express our gratitude to the Committee Chairperson, Rep. Jorge Almonte (1st District, Misamis Occidental), and the members who voted in favor of the People's FOI Act, a product of a long series of debates and discussions at the Techinical Working Group.

We in the FYI reiterate our support for the People's FOI Act, a consolidation of 24 proposals, including the bill that we filed under the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition through a petition for indirect initiative, as mandated by Republic Act No. 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act.

As sponsors of the People's FOI Act (Petition No. 0001) who have always been present in all committee meetings, we attest to the integrity of the process that the measure went through. Moreover, we affirm that this version of the FOI bill is the best one yet. We concur with the Coalition and our House champions in saying that "[t]he TWG FOI Bill is not a weak bill. It is a genuine and strong FOI bill that fully protects the people's right to information while carefully balancing it with legitimate interests of individuals, the state, and the bureaucracy." Arguments to the contrary have been fully addressed and answered not just in the TWG meetings, but also in the final hours before the measure was finally approved by an overwhelming majority in the Committee on Public Information hearing.

We ask the public, especially our peers among the youth, to be critical and constructive. We request everyone to read the People's FOI Act itself, and not mere press releases that seek to cast doubt and undermine the efforts of advocates within and beyond Congress.  

We call on the members of the House, especially its leaders, to fulfill their constitutional mandate to "give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic, and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good." This clearly includes the passage of the People's FOI Act.

The FYI will continue to be vigilant in watching over the progress of the bill in the House of Representatives. It is within our power as active citizens to expose unnecessary delays that would clearly attempt to derail the approval of the measure. At this juncture, in light of the various government scandals that have arisen, there is no more room for excuses. Now is the time for decisive and steadfast action. Now is the time for the People's Freedom of Information.


Consolidated People's FOI Act approved by the House Committee on Public Information last 24 November 2014: http://bit.ly/1zZSCFw

How Representatives voted in the November 24 committee hearing:  http://youth4foi.blogspot.com/2014/11/BantayBatasanCommitteeVOTES.html

Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition and FOI champions' response to the position of the Makabayan Bloc: http://bit.ly/1rC9wot
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