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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

State of the Freedom of Information Bill

I was at The Mind Museum of Taguig last July 21, 2014. I attended the State of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill with Senator Grace Poe as keynote speaker. It is one week before President Noynoy Aquino’s SONA, thus, the title of the forum.


Senator Grace Poe gave two analogies during her speech – that of the Lifeline Options in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire as well as Guess The Weight of the Cow. In these two scenarios, it was proven by studies that the Ask The Audience option is more accurate that Ask A Friend. Senator Poe’s point was that the collective wisdom of the crowd is superior that even the smartest friend of the contestant. It’s the same analogy in the Guess The Weight of the Cow – the average guess of the crowd is close to the actual weight of the cow.

Senator Grace Poe also pointed out the highlights of her version of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill:

  • Right to information
  • Upload the SALN of the government agencies
  • Declassification
  • Criminal and administrative penalties
  • Archiving of the information
  • Protection of privacy
  • Disclosure of the information of private contracts with the government
  • National security control

Senator Grace Poe repeated her belief that “the masa is not dumb” and “people are craving for information”. She wants these information be posted and in downloadable form from government websites. She is also encouraging people to participate in government affairs. She also mentioned that having the FOI Bill is like “having pest control in the government” and that it should include all areas of government.

Gemma Mendoza, Research and Content Strategist of Rappler, presented a study they’ve conducted on the status of the FOI in other countries including our neighbors Thailand and Indonesia. She also explained the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in the country and also emphasized that the 1987 Constitution guarantees the right of the people to information. She also explained the difficulties of asking public records and mentioned that 95 countries have Freedom of Information law.

The event was followed by two panel discussions – the first one was facilitated by Vergel Santos and includes German Ambassador Thomas Ossowski, Dr Juli Minoves (President of Liberal International) and Gemma Mendoza of Rappler. They’ve discussed “the right of the people to information” as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They also emphasized the importance of a Freedom of Information Law to detail how this right to information will be implemented.

The 2nd panel discussion was facilitated by John Nery, Editor of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and includes panelist Rep Leni Robredo (Co-author of House Bill 3237), Nepomuceno Malaluan (Co-Convenor, Right to Know Right Now Coalition), Nadia Trinidad (ABS-CBN News Channel) and Dr Roberto de Ocampo (Vice President of the Makati Business Club). They’ve mentioned that SALN should be displayed (posted online) whenever an individual is joining the government. They encouraged good citizens to look into the details of the FOI Bill.

Representative Leni Robredo mentioned how they introduced the Naga City Citizens Act. They published a book containing the city’s services and was given to each and every household. They want ordinary people to understand and that the Naga City officials are exerting more effort to reach out to their citizens. Naga City is after all, “Maugmang Lugar” (happy place).

Maria Ressa, CEO and Executive Editor of Rappler, gave the closing remarks. She gave 5 points on how we could pass the Freedom of Information Bill: Culture

  1. Culture
  2. Processes
  3. Resources
  4. Technology
  5. Institutionalizing

Maria Ressa also mentioned that 94% of Filipinos have access to the Internet and that we should put everything (government transactions) online.

The State of the Freedom of Information Bill ended with a lunch for the media and supporters of the Freedom of Information Bill like me. I’m glad that I’ve attended this event and I feel proud to participate in this kind of forum. I also believe that as good citizens of this country, we should really participate in how the government is conducting its business.

This event was organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, FNF Philippines and Rappler.


Jules Maaten, Country Director, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom


Senator Grace Poe – one of the senators I’ve voted during the last senatorial election. She was the Keynote Speaker of the State of the FOI Bill.


(L-R: Maria Ressa, Sen Grace Poe, Rep Leni Robredo and Jules Maaten)


Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza – Research and Content Strategist, Rappler.


Vergel Santos, Chairman, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility


H.E. Thomas Ossowski, Ambassador (German Embassy Manila), Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza and Dr Juli Minoves, President, Liberal International.




John Nery, Editor, Philippine Daily Inquirer


Panelist Dr Roberto de Ocampo, Vice Chairman, Makati Business Club; Nadia Trinidad, ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC); Rep Leni Robredo, Co-Author, House Bill 3237; and Nepomuceno Malaluan, Co-Convenor, Right to Know Right Now Coalition


Right to Know Right Now. Pass the Freedom of Information Act.


Maria Ressa, CEO and Executive Editor, Rappler


Rep Leni Robredo (n green) and guests




The Mind Museum at Taguig was the venue of the Statement of the Freedom of Information Bill.

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