With 9 session days left, youth groups strengthen call for FOI passage

With only nine days left remaining for the House of Representatives to conduct its sessions, youth groups reiterated their call for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill.

The FOI Youth Initiative (FYI), which has now grown to 68 youth organizations from all over the country, called on the Congress to “cement its reputation as the House of the People that has successfully enacted relevant progressive legislation for the rights and welfare of Filipinos.” The youth network is a member organization of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, a broad alliance of FOI advocates from various sectors of society.

“They shouldn’t stop now,” said Carlo Brolagda, Chairperson of the UPD CSSP Student Council and one of the convenors of the FYI. “Failing to pass the FOI Bill would make the House fall short of fully gaining the trust of the people in its winning streak of passing long-awaited laws.”

“The Senate has done its part by finally approving the measure. We believe that it isn’t too much to ask for the House to do the same before the 15th Congress ends and before many of its members go on campaign mode for the elections,” said Brolagda.

He added that “aside from possible problems in House members’ attendance, we also have to deal with legislators who are adamant in having an anti-press freedom Right of Reply provision in the bill. Some are misled into thinking that the FOI Law will only cater to the media. They are completely mistaken because this measure will benefit all citizens.” Moreover, Brolagda said that the FOI Law “will go beyond being an anti-corruption tool because ultimately, it is a way to catalyze participatory governance.”

UPD CSSPSC Councilor and FYI convenor Chris Alquizalas called on his fellow young leaders to help in lobbying for the bill by engaging their Representatives in Congress.

“We have to make them realize that FOI is our issue, too. We young people, who will eventually inherit this government, want institutionalized mechanisms for transparency and accountability of public officials and offices,” said Alquizalas. “Let our generation be defined not just by the laws passed during our youth, but more so by the actions that we have undertaken to ensure that they are enacted.”

The FYI is one with the call of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition for the President and House leadership to certify the FOI Bill as urgent. The group promised to be watchful of the proceedings in the House as it winds down towards adjournment before the 2013 elections. #