FOI passes Senate Committee
The Freedom of Information bill which would make public information accessible passes the Senate committee level.

'CAN'T REGULATE INTERNET.' Sen Grace Poe, chairperson of the committee on public information, says, "You can't regulate the Internet. It's like regulating the solar system." Photo by Senate PRIB/Joseph Vidal

MANILA, Philippines – The pork barrel scam reveals a web of corruption and collusion among lawmakers, and citizens are now calling for greater transparency.
On Wednesday, the bill that would make public information accessible passes the Senate committee level.
Ayee Macaraig reports.


One month after the Million People March, bloggers and journalists aren’t content with the filing of plunder cases against lawmakers and the mastermind.
They call for the swift passage of the Freedom of Information or FOI bill.

More meaningful than impeaching the Chief Justice, more stunning than jailing a President, more selfless than giving up your pork barrel, more courageous than stepping out of the Ombudsman’s way, nothing will herald a new dawn more clearly than passing a law that tells Filipinos – “Here is your government, we have nothing to hide.”

Heads of TV and online news organizations say it’s not just a law that’s needed, but also a system to ensure information is both accessible and usable.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa suggests clear timetables for requests for information in an era when news first breaks on social media.

15 days in the time of online news is a generation. We would like to submit that news organizations not be subjected to 15-day waiting period.

Senators point out government agencies lack resources and skills to post information online.
Media companies offer to help share the information on their websites.
Blogger Tonyo Cruz says netizens can help the government digitize records, secure websites and make apps.
Cruz says the passage of the bill is long overdue.

It is important to note that the first FOI bill filed in 1992 antedates the Philippines’ first Internet connection. We first had the first FOI bill before the Philippines in March 1994.

The Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media passes the bill and will submit its report to plenary next week.
The FOI bill is now a priority of President Aquino– the first time since he promised to push for its passage in the 2010 election.
The authors of the bill want the President to do more.

I know this will be the battleground, the House of Representatives. And if the President certifies this bill as urgent or as one of their measures that will be in their wish list, I don’t think it will have a problem in passing.

The Senate vows to pass the bill this year but it’s still unclear if the President will use his popularity to convince his allies in the House.
Facebook, Twitter, websites. The tools used to organize the anti-pork barrel protests can also help prevent and expose the kind of corruption that outraged the nation.
Beyond supporting the passage of the FOI bill, netizens and journalists promise to offer their services to ensure its effective implementation.
The question is how far the President and lawmakers will go to push for a bill they say is a priority but isn’t urgent.
Ayee Macaraig, Rappler. –

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