Sunday, October 07, 2007

The people's right to know

Mindanao journalists support the passing of the freedom of information bill. The bill is in accordance with the people's constitutional right to know.

Mindanao journalists push for freedom of information law

By Cheryll D. Fiel
Davao Today

Mindanao journalists are joining the call for the passing of a bill that will require government to release public documents fast and penalize violators of the public’s right to know.

Journalists, some of whom experienced being denied information related to the last elections, have committed to campaign among colleagues and lawmakers for the “Freedom of Information Act of 2007,” which, once passed into law, will require government to release public documents within specific number of working days upon receipt of a request and will eliminate the excessive cost of acquiring these data, which is imposed by government agencies.

Working journalists from all over Mindanao were gathered in Davao last month for the “Access of Information” forum, organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD).

The proposed bill, which was passed in the 12th Congress and has reached the Committee Report Level during the 13th Congress, also provides for clear administrative, criminal and civil liabilities for violators and possible courses of actions for citizens denied of information access.

Read here for more.

ATIN is a network of organizations advocating for the people’s Constitutional right to information. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility is an ATIN member.

It is high time that the freedom of information bill be passed now. Not only it is in accordance with the people's right to information enshrined in the Constitution and the international covenants which the country has agreed to follow, it also shows how we value the people's rights in a democracy.

4 comments:

DJB Rizalist said...

There is a little appreciated fact about the writ of habeas data that people ignore because they think it can only be applied to the govt and the military. But the "right to truth" can also hit newspapers, schools and other "information bearing" institutions. Remember it is not the right to be told the truth, but the right to demand access to someone else information for you to determine if they have the truth about you.

The ends may be good but the means are entirely totalitarian, imho.

DJB Rizalist said...

BTW, there is no such thing as "the public's right to know" in the constitution.

It is of course a recognized result of the freedom of speech.

But let us remember the lesson from Garci and the failure to make him speak:

The public's right to know ends where the right against self-incrimination begins.

yasuren said...

oi sir! hahaha.

bryant said...

DJB,

The public's right to information is there in our Constitution, right in the Bill of Rights itself.

Section 7 of the Bill of Rights reads: "The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. 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, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law."

As early as 1973, the Philippines has already recognized the people's right to information. It's Section 6, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution. Of course, 1973 Constitution was controversial since it was enacted during the Marcos dictatorship, but the point is, the public's right to information was already in our Constitution even by then.

The present Constitution also has a provision (Section 28) in Article II which reads: "Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public discourse of all its transactions involving public interest."

The parameters of this constitutional guarantee to information were outlined by the Supreme Court in the case of Legaspi vs. Civil Service Commission (G.R. 72119, 29 May 1987). The Supreme Court clearly pointed out in the case (and a long line of others) that the right to information, among others, is a public right, and such guarantee is self-executory (i.e. not requiring enabling legislation).

Plus, of course, the various international covenants which the Philippines has agreed to follow and respect the public's right to information.

 
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