House Approves FOI Bill

The House committee on public information, in a move to uphold and strengthen the people’s right to information, unanimously approved this week the much-awaited Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

Rep. Antonio Tinio (Party-list, ACT Teachers), committee chairman, presented to the panel a substitute bill, which is a consolidation of 33 measures on the FOI proposal.

Under the unnumbered substitute bill, the public shall be granted “access to official records and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development.”

The measure covers all government agencies in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches as well as the constitutional bodies; all agencies, departments, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities of the national government; Constitutional Commissions and constitutionally mandated bodies; local governments and all their agencies; regulatory agencies; chartered institutions; government-owned or –controlled corporations (GOCCs), including wholly-owned or controlled subsidiaries; government financial institutions (GFIs); state universities and colleges (SUCs); the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); the Philippine National Police (PNP); all offices in the Congress of the Philippines, including the offices of Senators and Representatives; and the Supreme Court and all lower courts established by law.

It mandates the President of the Philippines, Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries, senators, congressmen, SC justices, members of Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and AFP generals and flag officers to disclose their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) in their respective official websites.

The bill further orders all agencies in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government to publish in their websites and update on a monthly basis the public interest documents and records, including, among others: the annual budget; itemized monthly collections and disbursement; summary of income and expenditure; annual procurement plan and procurement list; items for bidding; bid results on civil works, goods, and services; abstract of bids, as calculated; procurement contracts entered into; private sector participation agreements or contracts in infrastructure and development projects; audited financial statements, annual budgets, revenue allotments, and expenditures; utilization of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), Special Education Fund, Local Development Fund, and other Local Government Unit (LGU) funds; and loans from domestic and foreign financial institutions, and loans, grants for development assistance, technical assistance, utilization of all forms of donations for calamity-stricken areas and programs entered into by a government agency.

Depending on the gravity and repetition of the act, the bill seeks to impose administrative and criminal liabilities and penalties against any public official or employee for violation.

Another salient feature of the bill is the integration of “the right to information, the principles of accountability and transparency, democracy and leadership, and good governance” in the elementary and secondary curriculum.

A “Congressional Oversight Committee,” composed of six members from the Senate and six members from the House of Representatives, shall also be created to oversee the implementation of the proposed legislation.

The substitute bill is a consolidation of House Bill Nos. 32, 63, 75, 77, 112, 120, 127, 161, 197, 224, 236, 237, 251, 330, 334, 463, 560, 684, 685, 737, 903, 913, 973, 1030, 1055, 1121, 1251, 1295, 1476, 1479, 1647, 2284, 2309, 2331. / ABR


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