Grassroots remain marginalized in policymaking with absence of Freedom of Information Law

IBON FEATURES | Upholding the people’s right to information is both urgent and necessary especially under a worsening climate of impunity, human rights violations and massive corruption.

Marginalized sectors who have been continuously denied of their right to participate in policymaking are the biggest sufferers in the failure of Congress to pass the freedom of information legislation.

Filipinos are deprived of their full right to information despite a constitutional guarantee, as denial of access to public records remains widespread in government bureaucracy. The absence of a decisive mechanism to ensure transparency in government procedures and transactions has not only promoted corruption and a culture of impunity but also further disempowered people from participating in policy development.

As it is, the lack of democratic processes in policymaking already denies affected sectors of their right to know and be consulted in many important government laws, transactions and projects. The lack of access to information makes this situation worse because it denies them of their right to scrutinize and express their views on these policies. Likewise, research and publication outfits like IBON that are committed to bringing information on socioeconomic issues to the grassroots face continued difficulty in gaining access to government records on far-reaching laws, agreements, and so-called development projects.

Access to information makes the process of policymaking more democratic because it facilitates understanding among the public and enables the people to take a stand on laws and policies that affect them. When the Right to Information Act for instance was passed by parliament in Delhi, India in 2001, it paved the way for grassroots organizations to investigate a proposed water project—revealing alleged maneuverings by the World Bank in the bidding process to favor a US-based firm, as well as onerous provisions that would worsen water supply inequities.

Upholding the people’s right to information is both urgent and necessary especially under a worsening climate of impunity, human rights violations and massive corruption. A true democracy not only requires full participation of the most affected sectors in governance but also demands transparency and accountability from those in public office—and one of the key steps in advancing these is the people’s full realization of their right to information.

President-elect Noynoy Aquino has promised to put an end on corruption and investigate Pres. Gloria Arroyo on her alleged corruption cases, and thus the challenge for his administration is to ensure that the right to information becomes legislated immediately. (end)

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