There are social issues in the Philippines that brings us into disorder but if the transparency of the government would be established, we can easily take down, one by one, all those issues with the government and the public as one. I’m going to tackle three issues that affects everyone, not only in Cagayan de Oro City but the whole country as well. Namely, the issues about the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175), Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) and the government’s transparency and accountability.
For decades, journalists and media advocacy groups have been calling for the decriminalization of libel but RA 10175 stooped and stifled not only the media but also our freedom of expression on the last remaining frontier of genuine democratic space—cyberspace. The Congress, over the past decades, have been acting blind and deaf with the press asking to amend the provisions on libel of the 82-year-old Revised Penal Code. Gladly, the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s (UNHRC) declared on October 2011 that the criminal sanction for libel of the country is “excessive” and violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in which the Philippines is a signatory.1 RA 10175 criminalizes specifically, cyber-crimes. This law, instead of decriminalizing libel, it just made it worse.
With the advancement of technology, we are using the cyberspace often everyday as an outlet of what we want to express. We use the internet to grab information that we want to know. Some of us even earn in cyberspace. Some of us use specifically Facebook, a free social networking website, to form groups for educational purposes and sometimes discuss current issues that everyone is free to express what they want to say but with RA 10175 being implemented, even a simple like on a libelous status on Facebook would mean that you are insubordinate of the crime and can be sued, and worse, maybe imprisoned for 6 months to 12 years depending on the legal basis of libel.
The right to information is the key for the development of the country. FOI is the government’s activities, documents, plans, and the likes, open to the public’s eye. It would eliminate government corruption and pushes genuine democratic space. Since, with the people being able to access information, together with the government, they would arrive at an intelligent and informed decisions that would be the proof of foundation of our democratic values.
The Congress, again, have been blind and deaf for the last two decades since the first FOI Bill was filed. The wanting for the government’s transparency and accountability is still a long way to go since the death of FOI in the 15th Congress. It affects all of us. Not knowing what the government’s plans and with the legislation being under-controlled by powerful individuals, leaving us wandering in the dark without having a say with what they’re going to do, we might as well gouge our eyes out and be robots and do whatever they want.
Transparency, as a principle, is when the government acts visibly and understandably for the people to participate and promote accountability. It is simply not achieved by making information available, it should be managed and published. Accountability means, either public or private officials should be responsible for their actions when their work and their commitment are not met. Transparency and Accountability coexist with each other. It enables the public to have a voice of the issues that involves them and to participate in the decision-making process and affect the development of the country.2
Being able to know what’s going on, helps the public to value information and participate in relevant issues that involves them. If FOI was implemented, transparency, accountability and good governance of the government can be grasped. With the public’s eye able to access information freely, it covers real democratic space. Awareness of the public and its participation of issues that concerns them helps the government into shaping a country to progress.
“RIGHT TO KNOW, RIGHT NOW!”