38,000 signatures for FOI submitted to Malacañang
An online petition that gathered 38,000 signatures for the swift assage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill was submitted to Malacañang Friday morning, prompting a Palace official to say that the government is keen on having an FOI law before President Aquino ends his term in 2016.
The petition was delivered by representatives of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition to Malacañang two days before Aquino delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to the passage of the FOI bill while Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda received the FOI petition and held a dialogue with its advocates at the Palace.
“During the Q&A in the Daylight Dialogue, the President already gave his commitment that FOI will be passed within his term so naging masaya din po ’yung mga advocates doon sa assurance na ‘yun [so the advocates are happy with such assurance],” Valte said in a Palace press briefing.
Valte admitted it was the first time the Aquino government received an online petition seeking immediate passage of the FOI bill. But she said most of the FOI advocates have worked with congressional committees involved in the bill as well as the administration’s Open Government initiative.
The coalition initiated the petition to drum up support for the approval of the FOI bill through the website www.change.org. As of Thursday, it has collected more than 16,235 online signatures and another 21,965 written signatures.
The coalition explained that the FOI law would “give life to the right of citizens to request and be given access to government information beyond what government chooses to disclose proactively.”
“An FOI law responds to this by clarifying the scope of and exceptions to available information, by providing the definite procedure for requesting and being given access to information, and by imposing administrative or criminal liability for the violation of a citizen’s right to information,” the coalition said.
But while he supports its passage, Aquino earlier said he cannot certify it as urgent “because the Constitution requires an emergency.”
While the Senate has passed its version of the FOI, the measure remains pending at the committee level at the House of Representatives.