Access to information

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

WHEREVER the matter of information emerges in the inter-relationship of people living in civilized society today, the question of fact and truth surfaces. For it is the object of this social quest to seek the truth, to get the credible.

In a sense, people living in our contemporary communities throughout the globe must share information with each other, must be able to communicate between themselves.

Which is why I think it is sad and most unfortunate that up to this writing the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill has failed to sail through Congress for lack of support from most of our national leaders, including the President. This brings me to suspect that they are afraid to let the people know the truth.


But having once worked as a staff member of the Malacañang information office, and then later as regional director of the Department of Public Information in 1974, I am well aware of how deeply sensitive people in government are as to the selection of what should be released and not released to the public every day.

This sensitivity is closely tied up with the administration’s political attitude or, to be blunt, the politics of those in power.

Reports about the status of the FOI bill stated that civil society groups nationwide are putting more pressure on the Aquino administration” to pass the measure and promote transparency in government transactions and data.

In a forum, members of the academe, student groups, media, law groups and non-government organizations (NGO) simultaneously signed a petition urging the President and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to exercise leadership and act decisively on the bill.

The only way to look at the reluctance of the officials/leaders of government to allow uncontrolled access of public information to the people is that there is fear of data getting into the wrong hands. There are data that can be used to destabilize the government itself.

Perhaps, there is need to clearly indicate what should be open to public access.

What seems to be important for the people composing the dominant political group in the government is the release of information that would eventually be inimical to the interest of the political party at the top. Consequently, making the information open to the media and opposing political groups would actually be equal to political suicide.

Because of this, we could not expect the people at the top to be sympathetic to the FOI.

I remember that we used to determine whether a piece of information was good for public interest or for the politics of the administration and the president.

Reports that are good for the politics of the administration as well as for public interest would be a glorious piece of information that should be shared by all. But woe to the information that may be good for the people but bad for the politics of the president.

Indeed, the FOI is a piece of democratic “meat” that democracy should most value, but which the citizens, specially the politicians, would not like everyone to partake of and enjoy.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 03, 2014.


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