Appeal for Inclusion of the Passage of the Freedom of Information Act in the President’s Priority Measures for consideration by LEDAC

(Open Letter)

 

01 February 2011

His Excellency

BENIGNO S. AQUINO III

President of the Philippines

Malacañan Palace

Manila

Thru:

 

Hon. Edwin Lacierda

Presidential Spokesperson

 

Hon. Ramon A. Carandang

Secretary

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning

 

Hon. Herminio Coloma

Secretary

Presidential Communications Operations Office

 

Subject: Appeal for Inclusion of the Passage of the Freedom of Information Act in the President’s Priority Measures for consideration by LEDAC

 

Dear Mr. President:

Warm greetings!

We are members of the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition, a network of organizations and individuals from various sectors that have long been campaigning for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act. We count among our ranks public-interest groups, organizations of print and broadcast journalists, environmental protection advocates, farmers organizations and support groups, women’s organizations, private and public sector labor unions, migrant workers, businessmen, lawyers, academics, student and youth organizations, and concerned individuals.

We understand that your office is now preparing for the convening of Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), and is reviewing a number of measures to determine what will be included in the legislative priorities that will be propose to LEDAC. We join the rest of the country in hopeful anticipation that the proposed Freedom of Information Act will be among your list of priorities.

We are aware that one of your communications secretaries, Sec. Herminio Coloma, has raised a number of concerns on the pending Freedom of Information bills. These concerns have been the subject of a memorandum prepared by Deputy Speaker Lorenzo R. Tañada III, a copy of which we attach herewith. We express our substantive agreement to the points discussed by Rep. Tañada, and signify our readiness to discuss ways to further refine the bill. We are in fact already revisiting areas of the bill where we think further adjustments can still be made. Specifically, we are working to streamline the list of documents for mandatory disclosure, studying further whether the bill can accommodate a deliberative process privilege, reconsidering the periods for responding to requests for access to information, and refining the penal provisions of the bill.

Our objective is to come up with a bill that strikes a careful and reasonable balance between the people’s right to access information and other legitimate, competing interests.

Even as we express openness to further refinements to the bill, we also cannot overemphasize the necessity of a clear and decisive signal of support from your office for this measure. Having been a legislator yourself, we are sure that you know very well the implications of the inclusion or non-inclusion of a measure in the LEDAC priorities on the chances of its passage.

We look to your leadership, in cooperation with Congress through the LEDAC, to secure for the country an enabling legal environment for transparency. We make this appeal fully aware of your appreciation of the value of a Freedom of Information Act in promoting good governance, transparency and accountability, and responsive government services.

Mr. President, please heed the people’s call for a Freedom of Information Act now.

 

Very truly yours,

Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition

 

To see the full text of the letter with the list of members of the coalition, please click here.

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