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Freedom of Information: Our Battle for Democracy

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Three years ago, we redefined democracy.

There was an old saying, information is power. Anyone who has it rules over everyone. One becomes invincible if he/she possesses information unknown to the masses. It’s the reason why evil hides behind a façade, why criminals lurk in the dark, and why villains of history rely on the ignorance of people to conquer and enslave.

However, as President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 2, s. 2016, allowing the creation of the Freedom of Information – the veil of confusion was lifted and transparency became king.

“Government offices under the Executive Branch, including Government-Owned and/or -Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) are all required to disclose information, official records, public records, and documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions – as well as government research data used as basis for policy development (Frequently Asked Questions – Freedom of Information).”

Freedom of Information became the bridge of information between the people and the government – a tool that ordinary citizens could use to break down the chains of secrecy. All of a sudden, that man who sells taho could know where his taxes are being spent, or perhaps even the yearly report of the current administration.

Requested from PCOO: “Hello! I would like to have a copy of “The Duterte Administration 2017 Year-End Report (63 pages) detailing the President’s key accomplishments for 2017. Thank you!” (Reynaldo, 2018)

Or you know, perhaps just an inquiry about the weather. The clouds are rather confusing today.
Requested from PAGASA: “So what will be the weather forecast for the next 24 hours of our lives? GD Day Everyone!” (Pagunuran, 2019)

Two years later, we fight a new battle and we will emerge victoriously.

Perhaps, it can be argued that we had long seen this coming. With the emergence of social media, evil (like at the beginning of Creation) had slithered its way through cyberspace. Suddenly, ordinary citizens are being bombarded with news that lead to nothing, words filled with malice, and information masked as irrelevant.

Truth became subjective, experts became unimportant, scientific researches became useless, and everyone became a citizen of their own worldly creation. As lies became the truth, information lost its power.

The era of fake news began. Suddenly, it is not just the barrier of ignorance that we, as Filipino citizens, must collectively battle, but also this new cluster of clever ignorance.

As luck would have it, we came prepared. The walls have been built – the Freedom of Information Program was already up and running.

Filipino citizens brandished in their hands their own version of Excalibur – burning and prepared for victory. We opened the eFOI Portal – a website that allows the citizens to browse and request information that otherwise would be a struggle to find. Within a span of not more than fifteen working days, anyone can have official records dancing in the palm of their hands. Every citizen can confirm for themselves whether or not the serpent tells the truth.

Requested from DepEd: “Totoo bang tatanggalin ang K-12?” (Saquing, 2019)

Information regained its power.

Today, we hold that power in our hands.

Within just a span of three years, the Freedom of Information Portal had gathered an outstanding amount of 13,620 requests with over 441 agencies willing to disclose information as requested. Personally, we are astonished that our Portal has reached that far. We are ecstatic that more and more people are utilizing the Program, and milking it for all it’s worth. Nevertheless, we will not be satisfied until that number reached beyond millions. We want everyone to recognize and utilize this amazing opportunity and help us further redefine democracy.

Democracy is for the people. Freedom is for everyone. (Rio Magpantay, FOI Philippines)

Sources

Frequently Asked Questions – Freedom of Information. (n.d.).
Pagunuran, J. (2019, May 23). Re: Weather Weather Lang
Reynaldo, K. (2018, April 21). Re: The Duterte Administration Year-End Report for 2017
Saquing, A. (2019, May 23). Re: Case Against Removing K-12 Program.

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