MANILA — Cotabato Rep. Emmylou Tali√±o-Mendoza has expressed confidence that the country’s anti-corruption rating would get a big boost once the proposed Freedom of Information Act is finally enacted.
“We are counting on the measure to improve considerably the country’s image in terms of fighting corruption,” said Tali√±o-Mendoza, one of the key authors of the measure and one-time chairwoman of the House committee on public information.
“What is important is that 23 years after ratification of the 1987 Constitution, we will finally have a new law enabling the orderly implementation of provisions on the public’s right to government information on matters of civic concern, including all state contracts,” Tali√±o-Mendoza said.
Congress is set to ratify this week the bicameral conference report on the measure.
Tali√±o-Mendoza said the measure would “surely give a whole new meaning to the constitutional right to information, reinforce public accountability and repel malfeasance.”
“We are absolutely certain this will go a long way in promoting greater transparency and improving governance,” she said.
The Philippines ranked 139th among 180 countries in the 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International (TI). With a score of 2.4 points in 2009, the country‚Äôs ranking improved slightly from 141st in 2008.
The index score relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business leaders and country analysts. The score ranges from zero, which is highly corrupt, to 10 points, which is very clean.
Sharing the 139th rank with the Philippines in the 2009 index were Pakistan, Belarus and Bangladesh.
“Legal frameworks and institutions of oversight that are actually enforced, coupled with smarter, more effective regulation, will ensure lower levels of corruption,” TI previously said.
In the 2009 index, the five countries seen as least corrupt were New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland.
Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan and Iraq were the countries seen as most corrupt. With a score of 1.1 points, war-torn Somalia has been without a functioning government for two decades.
The proposed Freedom of Information Act categorically mandates all state offices to make available for public scrutiny all information regarding official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as statistics used for policy development.
Information exempt from the measure’s coverage include those declared by the President as “classified,” compiled for internal or external defense and law enforcement, obtained by Congress in executive session, on medical and personnel records that may invade privacy, and pertaining to current treaty negotiations, among others.
The measure limits the executive privilege to withhold sensitive information only in times of war and emergency.
It would enable the following provisions of the Constitution:
Section 7, Article III provides: “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.”
Section 28, Article II provides: “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.”
Section 22, Article VI provides: “The heads of departments may, upon their own initiative, with the consent of the President, or upon the request of either House, as the rules of each House shall provide, appear before and be heard by such House on any matter pertaining to their departments. Written questions shall be submitted to the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives at least three days before their scheduled appearance. Interpellations shall not be limited to written questions, but may cover matters related thereto. When the security of the State or the public interest so requires and the President so states in writing, the appearance shall be conducted in executive session.”