The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) stands united today with other journalists and media groups as the Philippine media community reiterates its demand for the long-awaited passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
In a statement released today, the NUJP said, “The government has clearly run out of excuses to delay the passage of the Freedom of Information bill.”
“The only plausible reason why the FOI bill continues to languish in Congress is that the administration does not intend to see it become law,” it added.
NUJP challenged Pres. Benigno Aquino III to show a firm resolve to pass the measure, saying, “But if President Aquino could push the House to end the debates on the Reproductive Health bill although he was certain to court the ire of the Catholic church, we see no reason why he cannot do the same for the FOI bill, which can only earn him the people’s appreciation.
“Mr. Aquino, believe us, there is nothing we desire more than for you to prove us wrong. And we dare you to do so,” NUJP said.
In a meeting last August 3, NUJP, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), Philippine Press Institute (PPI), the two giant networks ABS-CBN and GMA, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and several blogger groups have declared today, Aug. 15, as FOI Day to remind the government of the need for a law protecting the people’s right to information.
Media and advocacy groups have clamored for an FOI bill since democracy and press freedom were restored in 1986.
Starting Monday (Aug. 13), NUJP made the rounds of beats and media organizations, sharing updates on the bill and distributing pins calling for FOI’s passage. Among those the group visited were reporters covering Malacanang, Foreign Affairs, Defense, Philippine National Police, and Justice department and Supreme Court, as well as the offices of PCIJ and ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs.
Photos are posted over Facebook profiles of some journalists and NUJP’s own page.
Facebook users also set the Right to Know, Right Now logo as their profile pictures.
Other print and online media organizations such as BusinessWorld, GMA News.tv, Interaksyon.com, Malaya/Business Insight, Manila Standard Today, PCIJ, PPI, and Rappler.com released the joint editorial drafted by the coalition. The editorial mainly called for the Congress, Senate and Pres. Benigno Aquino III himself to swiftly act on the passage of the 20-year-old bill.
Several broadcasters read the editorial and journalists posted it on their Facebook accounts and blogs. Malaya columnist Ellen Tordesillas and Philippine Star have also respectively come up with an opinion piece and an editorial discussing the bill, while the KBP has produced and will air public service radio plugs on Friday, Aug. 17.
An FOI bill was first filed in 1992. The measure was almost passed in February 2010, during the 14th Congress, but failed to ratify the bill, citing lack of quorum, which was later proved untrue.
NUJP said it plans to launch another wave of events campaigning for FOI, until the government finally takes concrete measures to pass the bill.
Rowena C. Paraan, NUJP secretary-general
Sonny Fernandez, NUJP director