Unless the Freedom of Information bill is enacted into law and without confirmation from acknowledged international anti-corruption groups, serious doubts and questions will continue to be raised on the Duterte administration’s claim of high achievements in the fight against graft and dishonesty in government.
“Talk is cheap. The real challenge is institutionalizing measures, such as FOI, that will deter wrongdoers from corrupting public funds,” House Deputy Speaker and Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Partylist Rep. Bro. Eddie Villanueva said in a press statement.
Villanueva reacted to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s boast that the Duterte government scored a high ‘8’ out of possible 10 points in its bid to rid his administration of corrupt activities.
“We respect the administration’s self-assessment of its anti-corruption drive, but CIBAC believes that self-assessments are only a small part of a bigger picture.” Villanueva said.
“Self-assessments are good but misleading if isolated from other real-world facts,” he stressed.
Villanueva, father of Senator Joel Villanueva who used to be CIBAC’s representative in the House of Representatives, said “a corruption-free Philippines is still far from sight.”
“For CIBAC, a score of 8 out of 10, or even higher, is only worthy for a president who passes a stringent FOI bill into law and dutifully implements it. By doing so, he empowers the people with the information they deserve and empowers our democratic institutions with the capacity to purge the government of crooks and criminals,” Villanueva said.
The House leader called on Duterte to certify the pending FOI bill as an urgent administration bill in order to assure passage before his term as chief executive ends next year.
“Multiple factors must be taken into consideration. Has our score in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) improved since 2016? No. Has the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill been passed? No,” the Bible evangelist pointed out.
Citing research statistics released by CPI from 2016 to 2020, Villanueva noted that the Philippines has been bouncing between 34 and 36 points, which ranks countries’ and territories’ publicly perceived corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).
Out of 179 countries and territories ranked in 2020, the Philippines is at the low 110s, along with sub-Saharan countries such as Eswatini, Sierra Leone, and Niger.
One of the authors of the pending FOI bill, Villanueva said the legislative proposal commands all government agencies to fully disclose its transactions and documents to the public unless they are covered by a list of exemptions also provided in the bill.
Among these exemptions are information relating to national security, right to privacy on personal and sensitive information, trade and financial secrets, and privileged communication. It also provides for the procedure of access by which citizens can obtain public information as well as legal remedies in case of denials.