House of Representatives

Subject:     Ratification of the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the Freedom of Information Act.

Dear Speaker Nograles,

We are members of the Right to Know. Right Now! Campaign, a network of organizations, coalitions and individuals from various sectors.  We count among our ranks 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. We come together to make the urgent call for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act.

The passage of the Freedom of Information Act is long overdue. It is a promise to the Filipino people that the Constitution assured in 1987, or 23 years ago, yet. Our people need and truly deserve this law. It is as well a demand of the times, a vote for good governance, democracy, and the people’s right to know.

We thus welcomed it as a major development when you included the Freedom of Information Act in the priority list of proposed legislation on political and governance reform, in your “Sustaining the Growth, Spreading the Benefits” legislative agenda.

We consistently lauded the House of Representatives under your leadership for taking the measure forward through the arduous legislative process. On 12 May 2008, even before the end of the first regular session, your House passed on third reading House Bill 3732, or the Freedom of Information Act. At the resumption of session last 18 January this year, we met you together with House Committee on Public Information Chairman Bienvenido Abante, Jr., Vice Chairman Eduardo Zialcita, and House Committee TWG Chairman Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III, appealing for the immediate constitution of the House Panel to the Bicameral Conference Committee. You did not frustrate us by forming the House Panel on the same day. The panel promptly met its Senate counterpart on 20 January for the reconciliation of the disagreeing provisions and the approval of the Bicameral Conference Report.

On February 2 and 3, with the Senate already having ratified the Bicam Report, we looked to your leadership to pull through for the Filipino people. Our hopes ran high, having heard your public statements committing to ratify the Bicam Report before the House adjourns for the elections.

We had hoped in vain.

Even as we were aware of the partisan and personal conflict raging on the floor during the last two session days, we also felt uncertain about the House Leadership’s support for the FOI Act.

Read the full letter.