Poe confident over Lower House’ passage of FOI bill

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, July 10 (PNA) – Senator Grace Poe on Thursday expressed optimism that the House of Representatives will pass the Freedom of Information Bill under the term of House Speaker Sonny Belmonte.

”We don’t know but I think and Speaker Belonte said the FOI will be passed under his term,” Poe said.

The lady senator said she has good number of allies who are expected to support the passage of the FOI bill.

Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on people’s public information and mass madia, is also hoping that President Benigno Aquino III will certify as urgent the FOI bill.

”Who knows President Aquino will surprise us by certifying it (FOI) as urgent bill,” the lady lawmaker said.

With 22 votes, the Senate passed on third and final reading the FOI bill or Senate Bill 1733 last March 10.

The FOI bill will give the people the right to request and be granted access to records or information that is under the control of government unless the information requested would jeopardize national security.

”FOI is very simple. It will give the people arms to ask for documents from the government such as biddings and projects,” Poe said.

According to Poe, studies showed that graft and corruption were minimized in countries with strong FOI law.

A total of 94 nations have already enacted their own FOI legislation while another 53 countries are in the process of ratifying their respective FOI laws, she said.

“The FOI will not only prevent graft and corruption but more importantly, our citizens will learn to get involved and participate in government matters,” Poe said.

Poe said the proposed legislation will cover all government agencies and instrumentalities, including the executive, legislative, judicial branches of government, local governments as well as government-owned- and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs).

Poe said government agencies will also be required to upload on their websites the Statements of Assets, Liabilities and New Worth (SALNs) of the President, Vice President, Cabinet members, senators, congressmen, justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Constitutional bodies and officers of the Armed Forces and Philippine National Police bearing star ranks and government officials with salary grade 27 and above and head of agencies.

Likewise, all information pertaining to annual budget, monthly disbursements, IRA utilization, procurement plan, list of the agencies’ vacant positions, items for bidding and its corresponding results, contracts entered into the government with any domestic or foreign entity, bilateral or multilateral treaties, licenses or permits granted to any entity for the extraction of natural resources and loans entered into by the government from any domestic or foreign financial institutions shall be uploaded on the websites, according to Poe. (PNA)