Freedom of information advocates found another champion in known social reformer Bishop Broderick Pabillo as the campaign for the ratification of the FOI Bill by the Lower House on May 31 intensifies.

The Auxiliary Bishop of Manila celebrated a Mass calling for the Catholic faithful to pray for the ratification and signing into law of the FOI Bill. The Mass was held in the Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish amid celebrations of Valentine’s Day and the Chinese New Year.

In his homily, Bishop Pabillo invoked parishioners to always seek what is good and true. He said that freedom of information will go a long way in the search for truth and good governance in the country.

After the Mass, Bishop Pabillo joined FOI advocates from the Right to Know. Right Now! Campaign in a press conference and signed a letter calling on House Speaker Prospero Nograles to commit to put the FOI Bill in the first order of business when Congress reconvenes on May 31.

Center for Community Journalism and Development Executive Director Red Batario stressed that the freedom of information bill will not just be for media but for the general public who has the right to know what government is doing. Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said that while the proposed bill will further the rights of the people, it will also facilitate the protection of journalists. She said that journalists constantly put their lives on the line as they seek to uncover the truth in government affairs. Yuen Abana of Partido Manggagawa said that there is no reason not to ratify the proposed bill and that Congress should not delay it.

Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said that the passage of the FOI Bill should be the positive legacy of the 14th Congress. Bello commits to join other champions in the House of Representatives to push for the ratification of the FOI Bill when they resume session.

FOI advocates vow to intensify the campaign, increase public awareness of the FOI issue, and build positive pressure towards its passage into law.

“The national elections will occupy media in the next several months, and it will be difficult to compete for space. But we will use creative means, work with local and regional groups, especially in Davao and Mindanao, to reach Speaker Nograles, members of Congress, and the President”, said Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan, spokesperson of the Right to Know. Right Now! Campaign.

The Letter to Speaker Nograles will be sent on Monday, February 15. The letter says that according to House rules, the consideration of bicameral conference committee reports is always in order, except when the journal is being read, the roll is being called, or the House is dividing on any question. FOI advocates ask Speaker Nograles to lead the House in ratifying the FOI Bill ahead of any other business when it resumes session on May 31, and to immediately transmit it to the President for enactment into law.

Aside from Bishop Pabillo, the letter to Speaker Nograles is signed by members and supporters of the Right to Know. Right Now! Campaign composed of public-interest groups, environmental protection advocates, independent media groups, print and broadcast journalists, farmers organizations and support groups, women’s organizations, private and public sector labor unions, migrant workers, businessmen, lawyers, academic institutions, student and youth organizations, and concerned individuals. Among the individuals who signed are members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid and Dr. Wilfrido V. Villacorta. Dr. Villacorta was the author of the provision on the Right to Information in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution.

If passed into law, the FOI Bill will operationalize the Constitutional guarantee to freedom of information. It clearly lists the classes of information covered by the law and limits the scope of exception. It also sets out procedures for requesting and accessing information, and penalties for the unlawful denial and violation of the right.

Download the full press release.