Poe won’t allow FOI bill to be watered down

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, March 9 (PNA) – Sen. Grace Poe on Sunday vowed not to allow any move to water down the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill that the Senate is set to pass on third and final reading on Monday.

”We will not allow moves to water down or make this bill ineffective. What I can say to our countrymen is that I will protect this version of FOI in the Senate,” Poe said.

Poe is also hoping that the House of Representatives will keep its promise to work on its own version right after the passage of the bill in the Senate.

”What is important is the credibility of the people in our government and our justice system wherein those who commit crimes will be punished,” Poe said.

The Senate passed the measure (Senate Bill 1733) on second reading Monday last week after concluding the period of amendments.

”This measure will arm the public with the tool to scrutinize government transactions to ensure the highest interests of our people and the country,” Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, said.

Among the amendments to the FOI bill are the tightening of the provision on personal privacy and sensitive personal information by defining its parameters.

The senators also approved amendment on the expansion of the concept of national security by including health pandemics and similar situations reflecting the modern definition of national security.

The mandatory posting by government agencies in their official websites of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth of officials with salary grade 27 or higher has also been included in the controversial bill.

The FOI measure shall allow every Filipino citizen to request and be granted access to any record or information that is under the control of the government, subject to reasonable exceptions.

Poe assured that the executive privilege, specifically issues discussed in a closed door meeting of the President with Cabinet members will remain under the Senate version.

”But once it becomes a document, it can be considered confidential,” Poe clarified.

The Senate version is a consolidation of 12 bills, including the indirect petition of the advocacy group Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition. (PNA)