04 July 2013

The Ateneo Debate Society on the People's FOI Bill

Last July 1, the 16th Congress of the Philippines received the filing of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill. The said bill allows all Filipino citizens to access any record under the control of a government agency. By making available to the public all information relating to official transactions, the FOI Bill aims to promote transparency and accountability within the halls of government.

We, the Ateneo Debate Society (ADS), have joined the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) in solidarity with other organizations that support the bill’s passage. As a society whose primary advocacy is the spread of discourse within the university, we believe that the FOI Bill is key to achieving the same productive discussion and analysis on the national level.

Democracies only function because of the public, when people pay for their taxes, elect their officials, and fulfill their civic duties. These people are also the main stakeholders affected by whatever decisions and transactions their government makes. All actions undertaken by the government should then logically point to what best serves the public, as they are both its main enablers and recipients.

We believe that freedom of information is a right. In the same way that public goods and services are meant for the people and owned by the people, citizens deserve to have information on government decisions. Through the FOI Bill, all relevant data, figures, and facts truly become property of the people. It is only through the transparency provided by the bill that the public can hold their officials accountable for all their actions. A good government can only be achieved if the public takes on the responsibility to ensure that proper procedures and protocols are being followed by those they have put in positions of power, and if they have the necessary information immediately accessible to them.

Only the FOI can bring power back to the people, by giving them the legal recourse to ask for information without being refused or ignored. This bill compels officials to follow due process, so that there is nothing for them to hide from the public. It also encourages the masses to never settle for anything less than genuine accountability. It sways them into asking their officials the more hard-hitting questions, as they will no longer be denied honest answers.

With all this in mind, the Ateneo Debate Society, along with the FOI Youth Initiative, urgently implores the 16th Congress of the Philippines to pass the Freedom of Information Bill now.

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