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October as Press Freedom Month
« on: September 26, 2012, 10:17:14 AM »
Governor Rodolfo del Rosario has declared the month of October as Press Freedom Month to show the province’s commitment to the media.

Assistant Provincial Administrator and Provincial Information Office officer-in-charge Romulo D. Tagalo said the declaration was also supported by local officials and members of the media in the province.

During the convocation held at the Bulwagan Hall of the province, a Davao City-based journalist was invited to talk on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.

With the theme “Confidentiality and the people’s right to know: The Right Balance”, the convocation aims to create an awareness about the Freedom of Information Bill which has been delayed for the past six years, Tagalo said.

“Transparency is the most effective deterrent to crime, corruption and abuse by the government,” he said.

In a speech read by vice governor Victorio Suaybaguio, Governor del Rosario said “Truthful, accurate and up-to-date information are very important to the mass media; the challenge is how to achieve balance between confidential information and public matters.”

“As of 2006, over 100 countries have passed the Freedom of Information Bill and some of these FOIs do not only cover government but also private entities as well,” Mindanao Times editor-in-chief Amalia M. Bandiola said.

She said the provisions of the FOI are no longer new as these are already embodied in the Constitution.

As embodied in the Bill of Rights, she said, the FOI will give access to “official records, documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions and government research data used as basis for policy development.”

The Constitution has also identified special classes of information that have to be divulged including: information on foreign loans, Statement of Assets and net worth, journal of proceedings of the legislature as well as the records and book of accounts of congress.

“But while these are already in the Constitution, there has to be a law that will implement it,” she said.

Bandiola said the FOI is not only a healthy pillar of democracy but it will also sustain the gains of the Aquino administration in the next years.

She said several versions of the Bill have been filed in Congress since 2010. Earlier versions of the bicameral report was presented in the 14th Congress headed by former Speaker and Davao 1st District representative Prospero Nograles. This included the amendments introduced by Nograles related to the non-retroactivity of the bill and by representative Darlene Antonino of General Santos City on the right of reply provision of the bill. The bill was however “killed” in the 14th Congress.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III formed in 2011 a study group to look into the Freedom of Information Bill and endorsed the group’s amendments to the Bill in January 2012. The Bill now includes the amendments introduced by Malacanang such as: the exclusion of National Security information from the FOI, exclusion of the Presidential Communication related to national security and according to the President’s Executive Privilege and the expansion of the classes of information for mandatory inclusion including the SALN or Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth.

After six years, the Freedom of Information Bill is now SB 3208 also known as POGI or the People’s Ownership over Government Information.

“It might have been resubmitted to Congress but it is scary to know that up to now, no plenary interpellation has been made and no hearings in the Senate yet even if the 15th Congress is about to end,” Bandiola said. - source: PNA.gov.ph

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