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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