Politics of Transparency and Public Accountability
The politics of transparency and accountability means the right of the people to demand transparency and accountability from government and its officials. Transparency and accountability are critical for the efficient functioning of a modern economy and for fostering social well-being. Without transparency and accountability, trust will be lacking between a government and whom it governs. The result will be social instability and an environment that is less conducive to economic growth.
“The State recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building” (Art. II, Sec. 24).
“The State shall maintain honesty and integrity in the public service and take positive and effective measures against graft and corruption” (Art. II, Sec. 27).
“Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest” (Art. II, Sec. 28).
“The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to limitations as may be provided by law” (Art. III, Sec. 7).
The Right to Know
Freedom of Information (FoI) is a right enshrined in our fundamental law. It refers to the right of the people to information on matters of public concern. It is the right of every citizen to access official records, documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development. This includes the public’s right to know the public officials’ and employees’ assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests.
So as not to render this right ineffectual brought about by the lack of a law therefor, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte passed Executive Order No. 2, Series of 2016, which implemented the FoI Program in the executive branch. For its part, the Supreme Court passed the Rule on Access to Information About the Supreme Court early this year. The Supreme Court likewise ordered the creation of FoI Manuals in the entire judiciary, ie, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals and lower courts. None for Congress where there, too, is no majority support for the passage of a law.
Freedom of Information Act of 2011
Kapatiran Party (AKP) on 18 July 2011 petitioned the House of Representatives to enact the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act of 2011 through the ‘indirect initiative’ provision pursuant to Sections 3(b) and 11 of Republic Act No. 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act.
The people’s right to government information is an indispensable element of a functioning representative democracy.
The people’s right to information is not only a political imperative. It is also essential in economic life. It provides the institutional foundation for a more responsive government planning by enhancing the capacity of the public to provide timely feedback to government, and builds consensus around policy objectives and design. The availability of information on official rules, policies, programs, and resource allocation also enables the private sector to make sound long-term economic decisions. This, in turn, advances economic efficiency and competitiveness.
A free flow of government information is also a vital safeguard against corruption. Secrecy in government makes corruption flourish. It provides a greater cover for any evidence in corruption. In contrast, transparency exposes the vested interests involved and leads to the identification of corrupt officials.
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