CITIZENS must be the ones to push for the full implementation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.
“We all have to demand for access of information,” said Malou Mangahas, executive director of Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).
“It is not the media alone, but it must be the citizenry who have to push for public transparency and accountability,” Mangahas added as Malacañang wanted a substitute bill for FOI that will also compel national officials to disclose their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).
Mangahas reminded Visayan journalists at the recent PCIJ seminar “Maguindanao and Beyond: Media Murders and the Quest for Justice” in Cebu City how SALN has been embedded into public consciousness.
She cited the ongoing impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, in which one of the eight articles of impeachment stemmed from the alleged betrayal of public trust of Corona when he failed to disclose his SALN.
A PCIJ report released last January found majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives who signed the impeachment complaint against Corona did not disclose their SALNs. It includes lead prosecutor and Iloilo 5th District Rep. Niel “Junjun” Tupas Jr.
Mangahas said that SALNs obtained by PCIJ from 2006 to 2011 also found the non-disclosure of officials in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Office of the Ombudsman, and Supreme Court justices.
These officials were violating the provision of Section 17, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution.
“Whether or not the FOI bill is there, there must be a citizen brigade in obtaining SALNs,” she emphasized.
Mangahas noted that a public who demands the full disclosure of SALNs may encourage good behavior among public officials.