Roxas warns gov't against excessive secrecy

Senator Mar Roxas warned the Government against excessive secrecy in the treatment of routine information with no bearing upon national or diplomatic security, saying that placing capricious limits to the people’s access to public information violates the Constitution and weakens the principle of democratic checks and balances.
It is unfortunate that our government habitually withholds routine information from the public just as the executive continues to use and abuse the claim of ‘executive privilege’ to further clamp down on information vital to the fight against corruption and general public discourse needed for democratic governance,” he said.
Kung wala namang itinatago, walang dapat katakutan. Pero mukha yatang ang policy ngayon ng administrasyon ay ‘minimum disclosure,’ ” he added, citing a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism on recent moves of the government to restrict public information.
Roxas said the executive could show its sincerity in addressing corruption by supporting his Senate Bill No. 109, the proposed Free Information Act.
Oras na para pagtibayin ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan sa malayang impormasyon. Ang impormasyong ito ukol sa kung paano pinapatakbo ang gobyerno at paano ginagasta ang perang pinaghirapan nila ang siyang magbibigay ng ‘empowerment’ sa ating mga mamamayan laban sa mga pang-aabuso,” he said.
We need laws such as the Free Information Act to promote transparency and accountability and empower Filipinos. Once enacted, the law will sharpen the checks and balances needed for democracy to be stable and strong,” Roxas said.
The bill requires all government agencies to respond to all requests for information within two days. Only requests for information pertaining to national security, diplomatic relations and similar matters can be refused.

Roxas has also filed other bills in the interest of transparency: amendments to the Government Procurement Reform Act to clarify that even executive agreements are subject to public bidding; and to the Overseas Development Assistance Law to require all foreign assistance-funded projects to be ratified by the Senate.

Roxas noted the continued refusal of the Government to present to the Senate the NEDA-ICC documents pertaining to the controversial NBN project, claiming “executive privilege.”
These documents of the NEDA have always been open to the public, and for good reason: these NEDA-approved projects use public money. Paano na natin malalaman kung paano ginagamit ang pera natin?” Roxas said.
The Liberal Party President and Senator Noynoy Aquino, a fellow LP stalwart, have filed a petition with the Supreme Court for the executive to produce the NEDA-ICC documents.

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