Judging from what Senate minority leader Alan Cayetano said last week, Freedom of Information (FOI) advocates would be on the edge of their seats in the next few days.
Sen. Cayetano said that passage of the FOI bill is now being given priority in the Senate. He has expressed his confidence of the bill’s passage saying that he has “talked to committee chairman Sen. Gringo at itutuloy-tuloy niya ito“.
In last week’s session, he and Senator Loren Legarda both delivered their speeches co-sponsoring Senate Bill 3201, “An Act Fortifying the People’s Right of Ownership Over Information held by the People’s Government”.
The pre-requisites for the bill’s passage in the Senate had already been met, said Sen. Cayetano. He is hopeful that the bill will be enacted before Congress closes for the Christmas break making FOI, according to him, the “best Xmas gift to the Filipino people”.
What could hold back the passage of the FOI legislation, he said, is the lower house where the lower house version is still yet to be taken up on the floor. As of date, the lower house bill HB00011 (“Freedom on Information Act of 2010”) has remained pending with the Committee on Public Information since its first reading on July 27, 2010 by Rep. Rodolfo G. Biazon, its principal author.
When asked if the president will support the FOI legislation, Sen. Cayetano said “Yes.”
“Even the president, when he was here in the Senate, voted for it.”
The timing of the congressional efforts to pass the FOI bill into law could not have been any better.
As in previous year, yesterday (December 9) was marked as International Anti-Corruption Day with a number of countries across the globe staging activities to raise public awareness of “the devastating impact corruption has on so many lives.”
The anti-corruption information campaign was carried out in conjunction with the public release last week of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2012.
In the latest CPI, Denmark, Finland and New Zealand are tied as the least corrupt (or, most clean) countries in the world with a 90 rating, followed by Sweden (88), Singapore (87), Switzerland (86), Australia and Norway (85), Canada and Netherlands (84), Iceland (82) and Luxembourg (80).
Countries are scored from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) based on expert opinions obtained by TI across a number of sectors. No country has yet scored a perfect 100. (NOTE: This year, Transparency International changed the base of its ranking. Apparently, the current rating of 0 – 100 would be equivalent to previous ranking base of 0 to 10, used below.)
According to TI, two-thirds of the 176 countries ranked in the 2012 index score below 50, showing that “public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable”.
At the bottom of the CPI ladder are Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia with a score of 8, followed by Sudan and Myanmar with scores of 13 and 15, respectively.
The Philippines is ranked number 105 amongst 176 countries with a score of 34 (or 3.4 using previous years’ calculations), sharing the spot with Algeria, Armenia, Bolivia, Gambia, Kosovo, Mali, and Mexico.
Perception of corruption in the Philippines: 1999 – 2012
I have been following the CPI performance of the Philippines during the last 14 years with my first report published way back in 1999.
This year’s ranking is a far cry from what it was over the last few years..
The first time we had a look at the country’s ranking was in 1999 (ranking based on about 18 months of Estrada Administration) when the Philippines had a score of 3.6.
This score was downgraded three years later in 2002 to 2.6 (Macapagal-Arroyo Administration), and continued to slide to 2.4, six months after Aquino III was elected president.
The Philippines’ CPI score slightly climbed to 2.6 in December 2011, and made a big jump to 3.4 (34 in current TI’s calculation) in TI’s corruption perceptions report released last week.
Compared to other countries’ achievements, the Philippines’ latest CPI score of 3.4 leaves a very big area for improvement.
However, given that the country’s latest score is now mirroring its highest score 13 years ago, one could remain positive that better things are on the horizon.
Freedom of Information, President Aquino and Economics
But the country needs a mechanism to make transparency and accountability the rules of the day.
This is where a Freedom of Information legislation comes in. This is also where President Aquino’s full support comes in.
MalacaÃ±ang has more to gain than lose from the FOI as the bill when enacted will give the president the opportunity to redeem his 2010 election promises.
Remember “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”? One Manila columnist wrote in May 2010 that Aquino’s anti-corruption slogan “touched the hearts of the Filipino people who believed in and voted for him as the next president of the country.”
The FOI is indeed an empowerment tool not only for the man on the street of becoming a “graft buster” but of helping upgrade the quality of his and his family’s economic life. As Sen. Cayetano said in his co-sponsorship speech: “FOI allows every Filipino the opportunity not only to become a graft buster but actively help prevent the commission of graft and corruption that leads to high prices, lack of job opportunities and income.”
Which exactly is the same message of yesterday’s International Anti-Corruption Day by Transparency International:
“Corruption is the most talked about problem in the world – it is also the greatest threat our societies face today.
“To address the toxic impact of corruption on their people, national governments have a duty to swiftly act upon the agenda set by, among others, the United Nations, G20, the Financial Stability Board and the OECD to make leaders more accountable, public sectors more transparent and deal with lapses of private sector integrity such as bribery, illicit trade and tax evasion. Governments must also enforce the UN, OECD and regional conventions, which provide powerful frameworks for making government work for the people.
“No impunity for the corrupt should not be just a slogan, it should be dealt with by all of us with all our strength.
“The pursuit of integrity and the need to bring business dealings out of back rooms into the public domain is more necessary than ever. Furthermore preventing corruption needs to be prioritised in efforts to eliminate poverty, inequality, human rights violations and social instability. Only by tackling corruption will we be able to effectively respond to these issues.”
Updates, 12 Dec 2012: Have just received the good news from our friends at Right to Know! (Elso U. Cabangon). Here is a screen grab copy of Elso’s FB status.