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Citizens’ access to information


By Pet Melliza The Beekeeper

Cayman, what is that?
It’s a group of islands in W. Caribbean of only 55,000 inhabitants, less than that of Miag-ao town, Iloilo. This British protectorate is blessed with a legislature whose majority consider transparency indispensable to good governance.
In 2007, Cayman enacted its Freedom of Information Law that took effect in 2009. That means, any citizen of that nation has the right to access records in the files of government. Conversely, the Cayman government considers it an obligation to any citizen to make available public records on request.
The Philippines, an archipelago of  7,100 islands (population 96 million) has consigned to the dustbin its Freedom of Information Bill that was filed in 2010, because Mr. Tuwid na Landas and his caboodle in the Liberal Party (LP) and allies in Congress, see good governance as service to foreign giants and their local partners – if you noticed their smugness against repealing the Oil Deregulation Law, for one.
Other countries, 93 as of September 2012, have enacted their FOI laws which also go by the term “right to information” or “access to information”. This Pearl of the Orient could have been the 94th had Pinoy and his archangels in Congress not amended it, and in so doing, mangled it beyond recognition that partylist representatives aligned with Bayan Muna, withdrew co-authorship of it.
With the shelving of the FOI law, Iloilo City mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog will continue to enjoy watching opinion writer Manuel “Boy” Mejorada shouting himself hoarse against corruption. Without the right to information, Boy will continue screaming in the desert, and Mabilog will just be delighted seeing him squirms as his demands for transparency are ignored.
Just recall what happened to Boy’s opposition to the ferry passenger terminal project in Iloilo City. The general information the mayor fed the public hailed it as a big success in PPP or public-private partnership.  The proposed P175-million terminal to be erected by Double Dragon, Inc., will sit on a real property owned by the city government.
Mabilog was elated and wanted it rushed at all cost. City legal officer Jun Jacela declared it legal, thus, there’s no reason to delay but Mejorada popped up before they could lift their spades; their meals were spoiled as result.
The ferry terminal looked like a fait accompli, a done deal, however because of the noises raised by Boy, the city government balked and its hands were further constrained after the PPP Commission required it to comply with procedures laid down by the national government, one of which is hold a public bidding.
Mabilog et al may fool people but not those of the mold of Boy Mejorada, who by his own sleuth, got hold of documents showing that Mabilog and Double Dragon were plotting to fry Iloilo taxpayers in their own lard. The MOA assures the private party that it can breeze its way to the bank. The lopsided deal guarantees us, citizens, you and me, the misfortune of holding an empty bag.
Had there been an FOI, Mabilog and cabal would have no choice but publicize the deal on citizen’s demand, under pain of criminal prosecution.
Had city hall furnished Boy the documents he had asked for, it would have avoided adverse public opinion and still scored pogi points, pa.
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