Information is a new source of power. It empowers us to make the right decisions by giving us more options. Now, we cannot afford to make mistakes. When wrong decisions are made, our money, effort, time, and other resources will all be wasted. If possible, we do not want that to happen. We want factual information. We want to be more informed. We want to be given more choices. We do not want to be fooled.
Aren’t the Filipinos tired of making the wrong decisions? Aren’t we tired of electing the wrong government officials again and again? How many People Power Revolutions do we need to correct our mistakes? Aren’t we tired of being fooled? Probably, we are, but the persons who want us to suffer are not.
What we need is the Freedom of Information Act. It will let us know what is really happening in our country especially in the government. It will give us easy access to government records and documents. It will let us know what our government has done, has been doing, and will be doing. It will help us know more about our public servants – what they have done, what they should have done, who or what they really are. Having easy access to our public officials’ documents like their copies of Personal Data Sheet and Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) is a good start to evaluate how they are worth of their positions and of our trust.
But why doesn’t the government approve the Freedom of Information Act? Are there things they do not want us to know? Is it because, like what our President said in an interview, information can be misused?
We have discussed in the lecture about gathering factual and relevant information that would support our claims. In gathering information, we have to search in various sources and verify what we have gathered. In connection with information gathering, I remember our Political Science professor’s challenge. She challenged us to research about our representative’s SALN. She said that we should be aware not only of how rich our congressmen are but of how their wealth grew since the first year they were elected. I was thinking that to gather information from the government is not easy. To interview a government employee is already difficult. What more if we are to request a copy of a document from them? I remembered that when I read the article of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). In that article about access to information under P-Noy, they made us aware of the difficulties that we have to experience before we can get the information that we are looking for. Many requirements, long processes, and costly fees. Those are just some of the things that we must be prepared for if we want to get documents from the government.
PCIJ’s article presented how transparent or how opaque our government is. It showed that our government lacks the “culture of transparency” among its agencies. Some are more open; many are not. This happens, because our government lacks a uniform procedure in disclosing information. This is also a result of P-Noy’s indecisiveness about the FOI Act.
The Philippine Constitution and other legal policies prove that Philippines is indeed a transparent or an open country. Article II, Section 28 and Article III, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees tell us about our right to information and the government’s obligation to disclose information of public interest. We will not need the FOI Act if those are effectively implemented, but sadly, they are not.
We need the FOI Act to help us assess how our government works. We need this act to help us in making the right decisions. We need this act to become smarter citizens. Knowing what his bosses need, P-Noy should know what to do.