The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Tuesday urged the government to be more transparent to the public about its deals in acquiring vaccines against COVID-19.
“Transparency is helpful in establishing facts, dispelling doubts and suspicions, countering propaganda, minimizing political posturing, curbing corruption, promoting accountability, nurturing cooperation, and in enhancing trust in our country’s governance,” IBP President Domingo Egon Cayosa said.
Cayosa made the call after President Duterte said the government could not reveal the exact price of the coronavirus vaccines being secured from pharmaceutical firms but assured that there are no irregularities taking place.
“There is a compelling legal basis for transparency even under the COVID 19 emergency. It is good to let the people know more about the COVID-19 vaccines, the decisions to be made for them, and the public funds therefor.
A well-informed citizenry will ‘heal as one’, better, and faster,” he added.
He said Article II, Section 28 and Article III, Section 7 of the Constitution are “twin provisions” that adopt “a policy of full public disclosure on all transactions involving public interest and acknowledge the people’s right to information.”
Citing a Supreme Court (SC) ruling, Cayosa said the high tribunal has already declared that “these provisions of the Constitution seek to promote transparency in policy-making and in the operations of the government, as well as provide the people sufficient information to exercise effectively other constitutional rights.”
The IBP chief said it was President Duterte himself who signed on July 23, 2016, Executive Order No. 2 which provides that “There shall be a legal presumption in favor of access to information, public records, and official records.“
“The Freedom of Information E.O. acknowledges that ‘the incorporation of this right in the Constitution is a recognition of the fundamental role of free and open exchange of information in a democracy, meant to enhance transparency and accountability in government official acts, transactions, or decisions’,” Cayosa said.
“It states that ‘the Executive Branch recognizes the urgent need to operationalize these Constitutional provisions’,” he added.