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SEVENTEEENTH CONGRESS OF THE REPUBLIC

OF THE PHILIPPINES
First Regular Session

SENATE
s.B.

BILLS jL^NDEX

159

Introduced by Senator Poe

AN ACT
IMPLEMENTING THE PEOPLES RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND THE
CONSTITUTIONAL POLICIES OF FULL PUBLIC DISCLOSURE AND HONESTY IN
THE PUBLIC SERVICE AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES
Explanatory Note
Accountability is the core of democratic governance. In their landmark article entitled "What
Democracy is...and is Not" political scientists Philippe C. Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl define
democracy as "...a system of governance in which rulers are held accountable for their actions in
the public realm."1 The framers of the 1987 Constitution clearly recognized this principle and
enshrined it in Article XI of our Fundamental Law, of which Section 1 reads: Public office is a
public trust Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people...''
Transparency is essential to accountability. Without transparency, citizens cannot access the
information needed to collectively discern the fitness of public officials, elected otherwise, to hold
public office. Open dialogue can be effective only to the extent that the citizenry is informed and
thus able to formulate its will intelligently. Only when the participants in the discussion are aware of
the issues and have access to information relating thereto can such bear fruit."2
The right to information institutionalizes transparency and empowers citizens to access and
demand information of public concern. The right to information is clearly recognized in the Bill of
Rights. Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution which states that 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 such
limitations as may be provided by law.
The right of information complemented by Article II, Sec. 28 which states: 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.
However, while the Supreme Court has consistently held that the right to information under
the Bill of Rights is self-executory, it lacks the substantive and procedural details necessary for its
effective and predictable implementation.3 The lack of implementing legislation bars the effective
utilization of the right to information, thus stifling democratic politics and public accountability.
This is disconcerting considering that 100 countries have enacted Right to Information (RTI) or
Freedom of Information (FOI) laws as of 2014.4 The first FOI law was filed by Sweden in 1766.5 In
1 S c h m itte r , P.C. a n d K a rl, T . L " W h a t D e m o c ra c y ls ...A n d Is H o t " . J o u r n a l o f D e m o c ra c y M o l 2 , N o .3 : S u m m e r 1 9 9 1 .
2 V a lm o n te i/s. B e lm o n te , G.R. N o . 7 4 9 3 0 ,1 3 F e b ru a ry 1 9 8 9 .
3 P e o p le 's FOI B ill, 1 6 th C o n g re s s
4 M c In to s h , T. "P a ra g u a y is 1 0 0 th n a tio n t o pass FOI la w , b u t s tr u g g le f o r o p e n n e s s g o e s o n " T he G u a rd ia n (1 9
S e p te m b e r 2 0 1 4 ). R e trie v e d f r o m h t t p : / / w w w . t h e g u a r d ia n . c o m / p u b lic - le a d e r s - n e t w o r k / 2 0 1 4 / s e D / 1 9 / D a r a g u a v f r e e d o m - in fo r m a tio n - la w - tr a n s p a r e n c v