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Thirty-one IFEX members call on Philippine leadership to champion Freedom of Information Act

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Before the current administration leaves office, 30 IFEX members have joined SEAPA to urge the president to sign the FOI Act into law:

Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines

Hon. Juan Ponce Enrile
President of the Senate
Republic of the Philippines

Hon. Prospero Nograles
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Republic of the Philippines

In a few weeks, the Philippines will see a newly elected government formally proclaimed. Before the government is formally turned over to new leadership, there is one crucial act that we, the undersigned organizations and individuals from around the world, would urgently like to support your leadership on.

As you know, in the run-up to the past electoral process the Philippine Congress came tantalizingly close to passing an important and historic Freedom of Information Act. The bicameral conference committee report needed only one final bang of the gavel by the House of Representatives to be ratified for transmission to the President and enactment into law. Unfortunately, Congress went into recess to make way for the electoral process before the legislation could be completed.

The good news is that there is still an opportunity to push the FOI Act through. But that window of opportunity is fast closing as the end of your term draws near.

We thus look to your leadership as President of the Republic, Senate President, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, to ensure the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report when Congress resumes session on 31 May, and the signing of the FOI Act into law by the President immediately thereafter.

As advocates of freedom of expression, of the press, and of information, we have long supported the Philippine movement for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act. We view the adoption of legislation giving effect to the right to information as fundamental to the respect of all human rights, as well as to democracy. Transparency in the public sector enables meaningful participation, promotes accountability, mitigates corruption, and contributes to the realization of personal and collective goals.

Article III, Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines guarantees this key right, and we understand that this constitutional guarantee has been used in the Philippines to give direct effect to this right. At the same time, experience around the world demonstrates that implementing legislation is needed to give full effect to the right, including by spelling out procedures for its exercise and by describing the exceptions in detail.

We support you and the Filipino people in your effort to pass the proposed Freedom of Information Act, as approved by the bicameral conference committee of the Philippine Congress. In Southeast Asia, only Thailand and Indonesia have enacted a right to information law. Should the Philippines push succeed, this will not only benefit Filipinos but will also provide direction and momentum to the whole Southeast Asia region.

The international movement for free expression, press freedom, and the right to information assure you of our support. We are in solidarity with the Filipino people in anticipating your success in adopting the Freedom of Information Act. Its passage will be an important legacy of the current administration, as well as a crucial tool for accountability and good governance for all who would succeed you. This will further strengthen Philippine democracy and allow for the greater participation of all Filipinos in true nation building.

Thank you very much.

Respectfully yours,

Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Association of Independent Electronic Media
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Cartoonists Rights Network International
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Center for Media Studies & Peace Building
Ethiopian Freepress Journalists' Association
Exiled Journalists Network
Freedom House
Globe International Center
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Index on Censorship
Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety
Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information
Institute of Mass Information
International Press Institute
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Rights Agenda
Mizzima News
Observatoire pour la liberté de presse, d'édition et de création
Pacific Freedom Forum
Pacific Islands News Association
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms - MADA
Privacy International
Public Association "Journalists"
Reporters Without Borders
West African Journalists Association
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters - AMARC
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