January 5, 2012
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, one of the main authors of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in Congress today welcomed the “super belated” support of the Palace for the FOI bill but asked that President Aquino certify it as urgent “to make up for the precious time we lost due to Malacañang’s dilly dallying on the measure.”
“We are glad that the President has finally come to his senses and now wants the FOI bill passed. For the past year and a half, it was the Executive that stood as the biggest stumbling block to the measure’s passage,” the lawmaker said.
“With Malacanang’s assurance that it is now fully supportive of the bill, the President should now certify it as urgent so Congress can pass it immediately. I think we can pass this in a month if the President and his allies are really sincere about it.”
Casiño however expressed concern that the Palace draft may still contain too many exemptions so as to render the law ineffective and toothless.
“Also, we heard that the penalties have been downgraded to purely administrative,” the progressive solon added.
A draft from by the Palace’s FOI study group last year lists the following exceptions to the FOI law: 1. Information that may cause damage to national security or defense and its revelation may cause grave damage to national security or internal and external defense of the State, 2. Matters pertaining to foreign affairs, that its revelation shall/may unduly weaken the negotiating position of the government in an ongoing bilateral or multilateral negotiation or seriously jeopardize our diplomatic relations 3. Law enforcement and border control information when its disclosure would: unduly compromise or deal with any military operation or law enforcement operation, unduly compromise or interfere with the prevention, detection or suppression of criminal activity, disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, 4. Records of minutes and advice during decision making or policy formulation, 5. Drafts of orders, solutions, memoranda and the like, 6. Information in executive session in either House of Congress, 7. Trade secrets, 8. Personal information of a natural person, 9. Classified as privilege communications in legal proceedings by law or by Rules of Court, 10. It is exempted by law or Constitution, 11. The information is already made accessible through other means subject of Section 26 of this Act.
Casiño’s version of the FOI bill does not contain any exemption and leaves it up to the courts to rule on the matter on a case to case basis.
“In any case, the House should not feel bound by the Executive’s draft. We should pass a bill that will serve the interest not of Malacanang but of the people,” Casiño said.#