The Right to Know, Right Now! (R2KRN) Coalition submitted its position paper to the House of Representatives (HoR) Committee on Public Information under the leadership of Rep. Joseph L. Lara during the hearing on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bills last 07 April 2021, the first hearing in over two years since July 2016. 

In the said position paper, the R2KRN identified common features of the FOI bills which they welcome, such as the provisions on mandatory disclosure and proactive publication; promotion of openness; presumption in favor of access; clear access procedures, no fees, proper records maintenance and management; liabilities for unjust and unwarranted denials; integrity of FOI in school curriculum; and whistleblower protection. 

They, however, stressed the need for information to be in open, platform-independent, and machine-readable formats; for determining with specificity which kinds of information should fall into mandatory or pro-active disclosure without need of request; and having an inventory map of information  that each government agency holds and not charging fees which they believe will increase the chances of people exercising their right to information. 

Meanwhile, the coalition took note of the fundamental differences on the provisions of the bills specifically on the expansion of coverage of the FOI; use of open formats when releasing information; issue of denial of request; creation of the FOI commission; and exceptions. 

The coalition expressed support for the bills having provisions on the expansion of FOI coverage to the various branches and agencies of government. They likewise recommended several safeguard measures on the issue of exceptions. But they explained that it should be expressly made clear that a no answer or a non-responsive answer to a request for information already constitutes a denial enough to trigger the remedy mechanism which is found in the house bills 5576, 837, 3063, 4673, and 1625. 

Despite the non-passage of the FOI in the 18th Congress, R2KRN is heartened by the move of the members of the Congress to finally hold a hearing on FOI bills. Currently, there are nineteen (19) pending FOI bills in the HoR. 

Finally, in celebration of the day of Valor, R2KRN co-Convenor Atty. Eirene Aguila said, “Misinformation is the pandemic we can cure. Perhaps, FOI is the vaccine.”

Access the position paper through https://bit.ly/3fZ6EFi.  [END]