Sigaw ng kabataan coalition (SKC) which is a part of Freedom of Information youth initiative (FYI) together with Public Service Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK ) attended the 2nd and last hearing of the Freedom of information bill yesterday ,September 18 ,2013 at the senate as a sign of support to the Right to know , Right now coalition who proposed one of the FOI bill versions.
The hearing started at exactly 10:00 am with an introductory message from the head of the committee on public information, Senator Grace Poe wherein the basic provisions and purpose of the bill was explained.
After that, presentations from different panels on their agencies’ insight about the bill were heard. It started with Prof. Clarita Carlos who expressed her disappointment about the 6-month period it takes the government to change a leaking faucet in a government facility and the likes. Followed by Congressman Erin Tañada who stressed the inclusion of the word “People” to the bill’s title and recognize it as the People’s Freedom of information act.
A higher penal system was even suggested but they later on come up to an idea that it’s unjust for those who lack legal knowledge.Tanada said destruction of information as an example should be subjected to criminal case.His statement was cut by Sen.Grace Poe to suggest an FOI desk at the ombudsman and to give way to Sen.JV Ejercito. Sen.Ejercito said that the FOI is no problem in the senate and that the real battle ground was the House of the representative.Representative from Presidential communications group spoke but Sen.Ejercito exclaimed that we must be informed right away if FOI will get dribbled again. (By 10:35 Sen.Sonny Angara arrives)
Civil Service Commission said that they’re in support of the FOI bill. Grounds for gross Negligence and Gross Refusal to give information as required was defined but penalty should depend upon the situation and the Head of agency does not have any discretion of lowering penalties.
Failure to provide is presumed negligence and if negligence goes with malice it will be considered (grave)misconduct.
10:52- Roby Alampay of NEWS5 was given the chance to speak. He narrated a story about Thailand being the first country to have an FOI act and of how it was attained. It was attained not because ’twas a powerful tool for media nor to seek evidence against corrupt officials but because of a mother whose child didn’t pass a state university exam.She fought for it ’till she found out that the influential and rich families’ children were accepted given that her child’s grade during the entrance examination was higher.
The talks come up to the idea where confidentiality was touched. As prof.Carlos’ example, her memo to a senator was exposed to public, taking her security at risk. It ended only when confidentiality clause was introduced.
11:11 Grace Delapeña of GMA 7 also expressed support to FOI bill. She mentioned about the manpower needed to prepare and deliver the necessary and requested information.
Rowena Paran of ABS-CBN said that they support the FOI bill a hundred and ten percent because it is not necessary for media men alone but to the students who conduct researches and the likes. Before ending her presentation she said that “Daang matuwid is not possible without transparency”.
One of the resource speakers; Tonyo Cruz presented the idea of FOI’s call to immediate passage through flashing back. He said that on 1992 Sen. Grace Poe had just given birth to her first child and we supposedly had a president by the name of Miriam Defensor-Santiago.The FOI was filed even before we had an internet connection. And now we already had 35 000 000 active users yet the FOI was still not passed.
The app developers,bloggers and other netizens must contribute to the betterment of the information dissemination because by 2015 it’s expected that the internet penetration will be 99% .
Questions and clarifications were entertained by Sen.Poe before announcing that the passing of committee reports will be on September 25 and adjourning the meeting at exactly 12:15 in the afternoon without any official statement if the bill is approved by the senate panel or not.
[Sen.Grace Poe later on said through a press conference that the senate panels approved the FOI bill.]