“An elephant trying to pass through a needle’s eye.” This can be readily considered as the picture of the plight of the FOI Bill before the Legislature presently under the command of the Executive Department. These and those proposed legislation with the preferential option of the present administration infallibly carry the title “Priority Bill” – but not the “FOI”. This is strange but true – considering that there are no less than at least three pertinent provisions of the 1986 Philippine Constitution in its favor!
There is the first provision on the inherent significance of information: “The State recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation building.” (Art. II, State Policy, Section 24) Translation: A State that wants people to be blind dumb, has no place in the civilized world. Precisely, communication is according of the communicative nature of man, in the same way that social information ultimately means social education.
There is the second provision on the relevance of public interest: “Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a politic of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.” (Art. II, State Policy, Section 28). Translation: A State that fears the disclosure of public transactions becomes untrustworthy. After all, restrictive conditions to the disclosure of public transactions are acceptable on condition that they are reasonable yet in accord with their constitutionally mandated “full” publication.
There is the third provision on the people’s right to information: “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 citizens, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.” (Art. III, Bill of Rights, Section 7). Translation: The State has no right to foment ignorance among its own citizens. It is not hard to understand that matters of public concern should be known precisely by the public – in the same way that private or privileged communications should remain such.
Notwithstanding all the above deliberately made and clearly expressed constitutional provisions, the following questions cannot but come to mind: Why is it that the FOI remains stagnant in the halls of Congress? Why is it that the Executive Department does not want to certify it as a priority bill? Why is it that the present administration does not want the public to know its acts and agenda? Why, considering that “reasonable conditions” are acceptable, especially so in conjunction with the intelligence work and security matters? Why oh why?