Noy still committed to FOI passage

Posted in News | Posted on 01-10-2011

By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star)

October 01, 2011

President Aquino answers questions during a dialogue at the Asean 100 Leadership Forum in Makati City yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino assured the public that his administration was in the process of crafting a freedom of information (FOI) law but would like to ensure it would have necessary safeguards.

Speaking at the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) 100 Leadership Forum last Thursday, Aquino said the public must be aware of the limitations and coverage of the freedom of information act.

“Having a freedom of information act sounds so good and noble but at the same time – I think you’ll notice that here in this country, there’s a tendency of getting information and not really utilizing it for the proper purposes,” Aquino said.

“There are so many people who will always look at the bottle half-empty, or sometimes the half-empty bottle even becomes the quarter, quarter-full bottle. What am I trying to say? Would it be, in its broadest sense, Cabinet discussions – there are some advocacies saying these should be recorded and right after discussing they should be made available to everybody and everybody,” Aquino said.

But Aquino said “when people share information perhaps that is deemed reliable but not sufficient to bring to the courts, having a freedom of information bill that dictates something like that will inhibit the discussions that will probably not allow us to share the information amongst ourselves…. and I don’t think you would want that.”

Aquino also cited an incident where he had initial reports of people who might be afflicted with severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS and those advocating full disclosure of even initial information would say this should have been made public “whether or not we know the person is indeed ill or not.”

“And I don’t think you would agree that causing panic amongst the populous again redound to their benefit. We are in the stage we are just asking that – let us have our people completely informed as mandated by the Constitution but at the same time make sure that the idea of little knowledge becomes a lot of danger does not happen in our country,” Aquino said.

“That is the debate as to where to draw the line. And we have a working group talking to all the stakeholders trying to come up with that law that everybody can live with and comply with. And if I may just add, just one last point, all you have to do is read our newspapers everyday. And I think you will agree, that there is – how should I say – nobody can state a fact exactly the same in all of these newspapers. An opinion commenting on the fact is okay but an opinion masquerading as a fact does not do anyone any good,” the President said.


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