The PDAF Scam exposed how we Filipinos remain victims to plunder despite numerous government mechanisms to protect public funds. In the PDAF system, projects are supposed to conform to a limited menu of eligible project and each project is subject to oversight by Congress, the Department of Budget and Management and the implementing agencies. Each project has to abide by the Procurement Act, stringent guidelines on release of funds and participation by NGOs, and is subject to regular audit by COA.
Amid the breakdown at different points in government safeguard mechanisms, the calls to address the ills of pork barrel and to bring the guilty to justice, we also demand the immediate passage of the People's Freedom of Information Act. It will empower us to directly protect ourselves against abuses of hard-earned resources that we entrust to government.
The Senate responded with urgency to our call. Public Information Chair Senator Grace Poe already completed the committee process and will present its report to the Senate plenary soon. Senate President Franklin Drilon targets to pass the FOI bill on third reading by end 2013, which, if it happens, will be the fastest ever by a chamber of Congress in the long legislative history of FOI.
Still, the House of Representatives remains the bastion of resistance to FOI. No credible concrete action to advance the bill has been proposed by its leaders. Worse, old excuses, such as the unavailability of a meeting room, are rehashed to explain inaction.
On Friday, September 27, the Lower House will hold its last session before taking a two-week break. On that day, they will approve the budgets of the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management. Budget discussions are an opportune time to press the issue of the pork barrel controversy and to push for transparency in the handling of public funds.
September 27 is also the eve of the International Right to Know Day. The Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition and other concerned groups and individuals will troop to the House of Representatives to convey our urgent demand for the passage of the People's Freedom of Information Act. We invite you to join us.
We will assemble at 5 o'clock in the afternoon for a short program. By 6:30 p.m. we will light candles to symbolize our desire to have a government where information is illuminated and made accessible to all citizens.
Those who will not be able to join us in Batasan are encouraged to organize their own candle-lighting events in their own localities. You can also be involved via social media by posting a photo of yourself with a lit candle and a statement stating your call for the passage of the FOI Bill, with hashtag #LightUp4FOI. (Ex. "Ako si [NAME]; kasama ako sa panawagang ipasa na ang FOI Bill! #LightUp4FOI" or "I am [NAME]; I am one with the call for the passage of the FOI Bill! #LightUp4FOI")
Panahon na para sa FOI sa ating bansa. Sa dami ng lumalantad na isyung may kinalaman sa pondo ng mamamayan, palakasin natin ang panawagang ipasa ang batas na magtitiyak na ang pamahalaan natin ay bukas at may pananagutan.
Tayo na para sa FOI!
For more information about the event, and for background materials on FOI, please visit the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/670342512976768