The cat is out of the bag. After campaigning on the promise that he’d prioritize the passage of a freedom of information bill once he is elected into office, President Aquino has broken the studious silence Malacañang has maintained for over a year on the issue with the clearest indication yet of his government’s sentiments about the proposed bill. In a nutshell, Mr. Aquino thinks giving the public more access to information about how their government works is dangerous.
“You know, having a Freedom of Information Act sounds so good and noble—[but] there’s a tendency of getting information and not really utilizing it for proper purposes,” he said at an open forum before Southeast Asian business leaders.
Something’s off there. When he was in the thick of wooing his countrymen to vote him into the nation’s highest office, Mr. Aquino saw no problem in invoking and embracing the “good and noble” intentions of the Act. Like his mother before him, he forged his candidacy on a ringing oath that he would be the opposite of his predecessor in Malacañang in terms of transparency, openness and accessibility in governing the country and managing the public till.
The experience of the past 10 years, with its outrageous and never-ending cavalcade of corruption scandals, pointed to the need for a government run with fairness and probity, and animated by the spirit of accountability to the people it purports to serve. Opening public records and empowering ordinary citizens to look at official transactions—the most basic rights to be laid down in the proposed law—would be the first step in making the government more honest, and less corrupt.