On 7 December 2009, the Senate approved on second reading Senate Bill 3308, or the Freedom of Information Act. With time fast running out on the 14th Congress, we appealed to our Senators not to kill the bill. They delivered; the country is now a giant step closer to the passage of a progressive and responsive freedom of information act.

We, representatives of over 100 organizations and coalitions from various sectors comprising the Right to Know. Right Now! Campaign, express our congratulations and deep gratitude to the Senate, under the leadership of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, for pulling through for the Filipino people.

We especially express our congratulations and deep gratitude to Senator Alan Peter Cayetano for decisively shepherding the bill through the committee process, and with Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, for taking it forward in plenary. We thank Senator Joker Arroyo and Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. for their statesmanship in withdrawing their additional interpellation to quicken the pace of the bill. We thank the various bill authors for providing the measure the bipartisan support that it needs. With the interventions of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Senator Arroyo in interpellation, and the amendments introduced by Senators Santiago and Escudero and by the committee, the Senate has done its legislative duty of ensuring a robust measure.

We renew our congratulations and gratitude to the Lower House under the leadership of Speaker Prospero Nograles for passing its counterpart measure, House Bill 3732. We especially thank Representative Erin Tañada, chairman of the Technical Working Group in the House Committee on Public Information, for his decisiveness and efficiency in pushing for the bill’s passage even before the close of the first regular session. This allowed the Senate sufficient time to review the bill. In this endeavor Rep. Tañada had help from Representatives Joel Villanueva, Del De Guzman, Riza Hontiveros, Satur Ocampo, Bienvenido Abante Jr., Juan Edgardo Angara, and other authors of the bill.

When finally passed into law, the Freedom of Information Act will make the Constitutional right to know and the state policy of full disclosure of transactions involving public interest fully operable. While the right to information has been held by the courts to be executory, it is difficult to enforce in practice. There is no standard procedure in dealing with requests. There is no law clarifying the exact scope of the right. The state policy requiring government to fully disclose transactions involving public interest does not have the implementing mechanics.  There are no effective sanctions to deter or make accountable the violation of the right. As a result, requests for information are routinely disregarded or denied based on arbitrary exceptions.

We cannot overemphasize the vital role that a Freedom of Information Act will play in the maturation of Philippine society and politics. Freedom of information gives flesh to the principle that public office is a public trust. Without proper information, we cannot hold public officials accountable for anything. Freedom of Information is also a necessary condition for the effective exercise of other rights by the people. The freedom of the press, of speech and expression, as well as the right to petition the government for redress of grievances can only be fully and responsibly exercised by an informed press and citizenry. The same is true for the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision making.

Even as we acknowledge the giant step forward afforded by our legislators in passing the bill on second reading, we cannot pause even for a moment. The clock is still ticking fast. Amid the cry for justice for the victims of the gruesome murder of journalists and civilians in Maguindanao, and under the dark cloud of Martial Law, we claim our freedom of information. Now more than ever we need to secure for the people the political rights that both empower and protect.

We call on the Senate to sustain the momentum by immediately approving the bill on third reading. We call on both Houses of Congress to forthwith name their respective representatives and convene the bicameral conference committee for this measure and finally approve the act for signing and approval by the President.

We call on other groups to join us in the fight for what is guaranteed to us by the Constitution. We ask you to march with us to the Senate on Monday, 14 December, to assert our freedom of information, to thank our Senators, and to sustain the momentum for the long-overdue passage of the Freedom of Information Act. Let it be the lasting contribution of the 14th Congress and of all of us to political and governance reform in the country, to benefit our generation, and the generations to come.

8 December 2009.
1. Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III        4th District, Quezon Province
2. Rep. Joel Villanueva CIBAC Party List
3. Rep. Del De Guzman 2nd District, Marikina City
4. Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel; Akbayan
Rep. Walden Bello
5. Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan Action for Economic Reforms (AER)
6. Dr. Florangel Rosario – Braid Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC)
7. Dean Antonio La Viña Ateneo School of Government (ASoG)
8. Ms. Angelica Simone Mangahas Ateneo Debate Society
9. Ms. Adelina Alvarez Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD)
10. Prof. Luis Teodoro Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR)
11. Atty. Roberto Cadiz LIBERTAS
12. Mr. Sonny Fernandez; National Union of Journalists of the
Mr. Nestor Burgos  Philippines (NUJP)
13. Mr. Bartholome Guingona pagbabago@pilipinas
14. Ms. Malou Mangahas Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)
15. Mr. Vincent T. Lazatin Transparency and Accountability Network (TAN)
16. Mr. Joshua Mata Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
17. Mr. Alberto Lim Makati Business Club
18. Ms. Ellene Sana Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA)
19. Ms. Ester Perez Tagle Concerned Citizens Against Pollution (COCAP)
20. Ms. Luz Malihiran Community Organizers Multiversity
21. Mr. Sammy Gamboa EU-ASEAN FTA Campaign Network-Philippines
22. Mr. Al Alegre Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA)
23. Mr. Milo Tanchuling Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
24. Ms. Judy Pasimio Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasan
25. Atty. Ma. Tanya Karina Lat; IDEALS, Inc.
Mr. Arnel Mateo

26. Mr. Jude Esguerra; Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD)
Mr. Doy Cinco
27. Mr. Ric Serrano La Liga Policy Institute
28. Mr. Rey Rasing Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN)
29. Atty. Farah Marie Decano              Lady Local Legislators’ League of the Philippines, Inc. (Four-L Phils.)
30. Mr. Raymond Marvic C. Baguilat University of the Philippines – Law Student Government
31. Mr. Ed Mora Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP)
32. Mr. Isagani Serrano Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
33. Ms. Annie Geron Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)
34. Mr. Carlos Magtolis, Jr. Siliman University – ASPAP
35. Ms. Evi-Ta Jimenez Center for People Empowerment in Governance
36. Mr. Joseph Purugganan Stop the New Round Coalition
37. Dr. Sixto K. Roxas Maximo T. Kalaw Institute for Sustainable Development
38. Mr. Ben-Hur Sacopla Southern Luzon State University ASPAP – Region IV
39. Ms. Eirene Aguila Team RP
40. Prof. Leonor M. Briones Social Watch Philippines
41. Ms. Mae V. Buenaventura Women’s Legal Bureau, Inc.
42. Ms. Jenina Joy Chavez Focus on the Global South – Philippines Program
43. Mr. Ramon Tuazon Philippines Communication Society
44. Ana Maria R. Nemenzo; WomanHealth Philippines
Mercedes Fabros

45. Dr. Buenaventura B. Dargantes Program on Integrated Water Resources
Management RDE, Institute for Strategic Research and Development Studies, Visayas State University
46. Mr. Mr. Boy Nuera Pandayan para sa Sosyalistang Pilipinas (PANDAYAN)
47. Mr. Roy Calfoforo  People’s Alternative Studies Center for Research and Education in Social Develoment (PASCRES)
48. Mr. Alain Pascua Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan All Filipino Democratic Movement (KAAKBAY)
49. Mr. Horacio T. Cadiz The Philippine Network Foundation, Inc (PHNET)
50. Mr. Joe Valencia  KASAPI-HELLAS
51. Mr. Nestor Villanueva  Akbayan Greece
52. Mr. Sixto Donato Macasaet CODE-NGO
53. Mr. Jun S. Aguilar Filipino Migrant Workers
54. Mr. Pablo Rosales Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda (PANGISDA)
55. Pambansang Katipunan ng Makabayang Magbubukid (PKKM)
56. Kilusan Para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD)
57. Ms. Lourdes M. Tison Paghiliusa sa Paghidaet-Negros (PsPN)
58. Ms. Abby Y. Pato Task Force on Food Sovereignty Mindanao
59. Ms. Karen Tañada Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute
60. Ms. Mardi Mapa-Suplido Negros Peace Watch
61. Dr. Jose Reuben Alagaran II Philippines Communication Society
62. Ms. Aurora Regalado  Management Organization for Development and Empowerment, Inc.
63. Mr. Ernesto Lim Jr. People’s Campaign on Agrarian Reform (AR NOW!)
64. Mr. Anthony Marzan KAISAHAN
65. Mr. Jesus Vicente Garganera Alyansa Tigil Mina
66. Ms. Luz Cabucos-Fegarido RSW
67. Ms. Maria Lisa Alano Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM), Inc.
68. Dr. Jose Reuben Alagaran II Philippines Communication Society
69. Ms. Ma. Lourdes M. Tison Paghiliusa sa Paghidaet-Negros (PsPN)
70. Mr. Joel Saracho GCAP-Phils
71. Ms. Trinidad Domingo Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan
72. Mr. Richard Gutierrez  Ban Toxics
73. Mr. Nonoy Oplas Minimal Government Thinkers
74. Mr. Harvey Keh                Kaya Natin! Movement
75. Mr. Czarina Sacaguing     Confederation of Student Government in the Philippines
76. Mr. Byron Abadeza  Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific
77. Dr. Ma. Olivia Domingo Center for Leadership, Citizenship and Democracy, UP-NCPAG
78. Dr. Angelo Ramos Philippine Community e-Center Network
79. Ms. Mae Sabio Sulong CARPER
80. Mr. Diosdado Calmada PEACE
81. Ms. Lanie Factor Task Force Mapalad
82. Ms. Maris Dela Cruz – Cardenas EmPOWER Consumers
83. Mr. Wilson Fortaleza Partido ng Mangagawa
84. Atty. Elpidio Peria Third World Network
Vice Chairman, Social Concerns Committee, IBP South Cotabato – General Santos City Chapter
85. Prof. Gigi Francisco Miriam College – International Studies Department
86. Mr. Obet Pagdanganan Coalition for Health Advocacy and Transparency (CHAT)
87. Mr. Omi Royandoyan Centro Saka
88. Ms. Carolyn Arguillas MindaNews
89. Mr. Abner Francisco DXCA – FM
90. Ms. Florencia Casanova-Dorotan  Women’s Action Network for Development
91. Ms. Violeta Corral Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan
92. Mr. Crispino Aguelo Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA)
93. Ms. Michelle Domocol Visayas Climate Action Network
94. Judge Dolores L. Español (Ret.) Transparency International – Philippines
95. Mr. Roby Alampay Southeast Asian Press Alliance
96. Ms. Teresita Quintos Deles  International Center on Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov)
97. Ms. Maita Gomez Bantay Kita
98. Mr. Rey Hulog  Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas
99. Mr. Jose Pavia  Philippine Press Institute
100. Mr. Isagani Yambot  Philippine Daily Inquirer
101.  College Editors Guild of the Philippines
102. Ms. Emy M. Santos  National Confederation of Cooperatives (NATCCO)
103. Ms. Tes M. Borgoños Manggagawang Kababaihang Mithi ay Paglaya (MAKALAYA)
104. Ms. Marilyn Fuentes National Union of Building and Construction Workers (NUBCW)
105. Atty. Michael Yu Integrated Bar of the Philippines- Cebu City Chapter
106. Dr. Prospero E. de Vera National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines
107. Sylvia  Estrada Claudio, M.D. PhD. Center for Women’s Studies, University of the Philippines
108. Mr. Viktor Samuel Fontanilla UP ALYANSA
109. Ms. Anna Luz Lopez UP BUKLOD CSSP
110. Mr. Jeffrey Crisostomo AKBAYAN Youth – UP Diliman