07 June 2013

A renewed campaign of the youth for FOI

With the last session of the House of Representatives and Senate signalling the end of the 15th Congress, various groups have once again renewed the call for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.

“We deeply hope that more champions for FOI will emerge in the 16th Congress,” said AJ Montesa, one of the conveners of the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) and President of the UP Economics Towards Consciousness (ETC). 

The FYI is the first and only national network of youth and student organizations campaigning for the passage of the said measure. It is a member of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition.

“We understand that all winning senatorial candidates in the recently concluded elections expressed support for the FOI Bill. We only hope that these will not end up as unfulfilled promises of politicians who only tried to gain votes,” said Montesa. 

“Hopefully, the Chairs of the committees that will tackle the FOI Bill in both Houses of Congress will be supportive. We don’t want to hear the same excuses from the previous years.”

Congressman Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar chaired the House Committee on Public Information. Hearings on the bill were delayed due to different reasons. “The lamest of which is the lack of available rooms to hold the meetings,” Montesa added.

Last year, the members of the FYI offered to host the House committee hearing in one of the classrooms in the University of the Philippines - Diliman “just to end the undue delays on a piece of legislation that is essential in the fight against corruption.”

“Now, we are at the beginning of a renewed campaign of young leaders for the passage of the FOI Bill. We started the FYI in August 2012 and ended the 15th Congress with a roster of 71 organizations,” said Montesa. “We started from zero in our 16th Congress campaign due to leadership changes in student organizations. In just two weeks, we now have 61 partner organizations!” 

“It took us months to get 71 groups in the 15th Congress. With a little less than two months before the start of the 16th, we are about to surpass that record. This just goes to show that FOI is definitely become more and more relevant to our generation.”

The FYI promised to intensify its lobbying efforts while recruiting more and more young people in their campaign for transparency and accountability in government.

“From social media to the halls of the Senate and the House, young people will remind our elected officials to put FOI first in the legislative agenda,” ended Montesa.

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