FOI Backers in Philippines Launch Petition Campaign

24 June 2013

Trying a new tactic, supporters of freedom of information legislation in the Philippines are planning to file a petition with Congress proposing enactment of a FOI law.

There have been no shortage of proposed laws in recent years, but their backers have been frustrated bitterly in the last two session of Congress. They have faced reluctant  congressional consideration and lacked political strong support from President Benigno Aquino despite his campaign endorsement.

The use of the “indirect initiative” method is an effort to demonstrate broad popular backing for FOI legislation, according to a statement from the Right to Know Right Now! coalition. The law allows peoples’ organization to file a petition in Congress proposing the enactment of a law. (The other mode is the “direct initiative,” a more difficult method which requires the collection of many signatures to force a referendum.)

The indirect initiative mechanism allows any “duly accredited people’s organization” to file a petition in Congress for a specific measure they want passed. Section 11 of Republic Act 6735 states that an indirect initiative shall be treated like any other bill filed by lawmakers with one vital feature — it shall have precedence over other pending bills in the committee, according to an article in Rappler.

Some 80 youth and student organizations June 24 signed a manifesto urging Aquino III to certify the measure as “urgent ,” a move that would lower the hurdles in Congress. He has resisted such calls in the past.

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