QUEZON CITY (PIA) -- Freedom of Information (FOI) officers and champions, including transparency and open government advocates from across the country and abroad have joined together to elevate the discourse on the people’s right to access information and unite to push for the passage of FOI law at the 2022 FOI Summit, November 24.
Celebrating the continued implementation of the FOI program within the framework of a new vision for a new administration, Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Director-General Ramon Lee Cualoping III expressed his ardent hope that through access to information, government and the people will be united in the pursuit of participatory governance through the provision of a free flow of accurate, timely, and relevant information.
“Despite tremendous efforts and the passages of numerous Congresses, the FOI Bill has yet to be approved into law. However, under the new administration and the leadership and full support of PIA, the FOI program is in good hands and the PIA is ready to support in the continuity of the pursuance of the passage of the bill into a law,” Cualoping cited.
He also said that PIA guarantees that FOI implementation in the country will be strengthened, transparency will be achieved, and accountability will prevail through the values of service, merit, and excellence as the Agency envisions a strong alliance through continued partnership and support in pursuit of FOI and the operationalization of the right to information.
To bolster efforts in championing the FOI cause and the dedication to localizing the FOI Program, FOI Philippines Program Director Krizia Casey P. Avejar, meanwhile, elevated the strengthened ties of FOI with new and former partners.
“In 2018, the former Presidential Communication Operations Office, together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government, issued Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2018-01 to enjoin local governments across the country to enact an FOI ordinance. Although few, we nevertheless laud the 63 local governments who progressively adopted FOI in their jurisdictions. From localizing FOI, we take access to information to a global scale,” she shared.
Mandated by Executive Order No. 2, series of 2016, FOI have 566 government agencies onboard the electronic FOI Portal and citizens can request information from these offices. There are also 102,594 eFOI users registered nationwide who lodged over 130,000 requests with a success rate of 56%.
Citing the said numbers, Avejar said, “This only shows that more and more Filipinos are seeing the value of having access to public information.” She also gave credit to over 400 information, education, and communication activities, both face-to-face and virtual, that the FOI Philippines has organized and participated in to promote the people’s awareness on their right to access public information.
On the other hand, tackling the important role of access to information in fighting Mis- and Disinformation, Office of the Press Secretary Undersecretary Emerald Anne Ridao shared that there are a lot of ways to help citizens differentiate between facts and fake news.
“The fight against misinformation, [disinformation, and fake news] ultimately is not about just regulating platforms. It’s not just about penalizing those who produce fake news. But it really is to empower our citizens to recognize, to discern, and to dissociate themselves from disinformation,” Ridao explained.
Chairman of the Central Information Commission, Republic of Indonesia, Mr. Donny Yoesgiantoro, meanwhile expressed his hope that the forum can give a significant contribution to freedom of information nationally, regionally and globally.
“The right to obtain information is a human right and public information openness is an essential characteristic of a democratic state that upholds sovereignty of the people to constitute good governance. Public information, as information resilience model, should have the criteria of 4A (Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability, and Affordability) of information and 1S (Sustainability),” he said.
As a formidable ally from the private sector, Executive Director of the Makati Business Club (MBC) Coco Alcuaz, in his closing remarks, said that MBC has been trying to do its part by explaining FOI to various business groups and associations has issued a statement calling for a national FOI law.
“In the US and other countries, business is the number one user of FOI laws. We pledge to make Philippine business a bigger user and booster of FOI. We hope this contributes to your greater efforts to get more people and organizations to know and use FOI and act more FOI ordinances and finally achieve a national FOI law,” he vowed.
Anchored on the Theme “Championing Access to Information Towards a Connected, Empowered, and Inclusive Nation,” the Summit is regarded as one of the most-awaited events of the FOI Philippines. It serves as the annual culminating celebration where FOI takes stock of its year’s milestones, embraces opportunities, and tackles challenges. (EEDC/PIA-CPSD)