Sunday, February 5, 2012
News Update What Aquino wants in his FOI version
President Benigno Aquino III’s version of the Freedom of Information Bill mandates high government officials, including the Supreme Court, to publicly disclose their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth. Aside from the SC, the president, vice president, cabinet members, Congress, constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces are required to publish their yearly SALNs on their respective official websites, Section 7 of Aquino’s proposed FOI Bill stated as posted in http://www.gov.ph/foi/. This provision was listed by the Office of the President as one of the advantages of Aquino’s FOI Bill compared to the prior bills filed in Congress. The president announced on Thursday that the Palace has officially submitted to the House of Representatives a substitute FOI Bill which he said “addresses stakeholders’ desires to have more transparency and more access to information in government.” “We want every other administration voted into power to work under the same standard of transparency and accountability that we have set for ourselves. This is a significant step toward achieving that goal,” Aquino said in his speech at the anniversary of Manila Bulletin on Thursday. Chief Justice Renato Corona was charged with culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust due to his alleged failure to disclose and truthfully disclose his SALNs. As revealed in the trial, the SC is exempted from the constitutional provision requiring officials to disclose their SALNs. An SC ruling stated that the High Court must first approve the request for the justices’ SALNs before releasing them to the public. In the case of Corona, the impeachment court was able to compel the SC to release the SALNs of the chief justice to be presented as evidence of the prosecution. “This draft bill is a result of a consultative process to ensure that it serves public interest without compromising government’s legitimate rights—in other words, balance legitimate needs for secrecy with the public’s right to know,” the Office of the President said in its website. It added that the FOI bill is an integral element of the Aquino Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan of 2012-2016. Aside from the SALNs, legislative acts and resolutions of the Congress, executive and administrative orders and proclamations, and decisions of the SC and the Court of Appeals are required to be published online. This would spare the public from the tedious work of trying to access information from different agencies, the Palace said. The bill likewise asks government agencies to translate key information into major Filipino languages.