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Push for info freedom bill renewed

THE support for the immediate passage of the Freedom of Information bill has snowballed as some 80 youth and student organizations on Monday signed a manifesto urging President Benigno Aquino III to certify the measure as urgent “in fulfillment of his promise of change to the people.” In a news conference, the FOI Youth Initiative, a member of the Right to Know, Right Now coalition, called for transparency and accountability in government through the immediate passage of the FOI bill. Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao promised to push for the FOI bill after its main proponent, House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III ended his term. The bill, pushed by Tanada and Baguilat, both of the ruling Liberal Party, failed to pass in the 15th Congress. It was archived in the committee level with Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the House committee on public information, claiming the Palace did not want the bill approved. Evardone is also a Liberal. “We affirm that our right to information enshrined in the Constitution must be institutionalized through the FOI Law to guarantee that transparency among public officials and employees becomes a norm and not simply a discretion of individuals bound by their terms of office,” the FYI said in a manifesto. “We urge President Benigno S. Aquino III to go beyond a mere declaration of support for the passage of the FOI Bill by certifying it as urgent in fulfillment of his promise of change to the people. “We appeal to all Senators and Representatives of the 16th Congress to immediately place the FOI Bill on top of the legislative agenda and to eliminate all obstacles that seek to delay its passage.” The students demanded that the House members drop the unconstitutional and anti-press freedom Right of Reply rider within the FOI bill as this “dilutes the essence of a proposed law that seeks to strengthen the right to information of all Filipinos.” Among the signatories were youth and student organizations from premier colleges and universities such as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De la Salle University, Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, Silliman University in Dumaguete City, University of Sto. Tomas, Polytechnic University of the Philippines and those from Cebu City, Iloilo City and Zamboanga City. “We believe that the FOI Law is a measure that shall curb corruption and advance participatory governance that will truly benefit each and every Filipino,” the student and youth leaders said. The student and youth leaders said they wanted FOI bill to become a law to “ultimately transform our government into an institution that is worthy of the trust of the people that it serves.”
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