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Opinion

TEODORO L. LOCSIN, JR. | Why they're afraid of FOI

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

The hidden reason the Freedom of Information bill cannot pass is the same reason the Palace will not push it. It reaches too far down to the local government level where a lot of the wheeling, dealing and stealing are going on; but also where all the votes are to be gotten.

At a LEDAC meeting in GMA's time, I suggested we look into reports of misspending of the IRA by LGUs. Her reaction, more or less, was that it would be fine with her; she could not run again - but wasn't I interested in reelection? The rest of the table laughed.

The FOI should contain one necessary provision: no monies shall be paid on a public contract unless it is published. The expense for that is zero: post it on the Internet.

Any expenditures otherwise shall be void and criminal. This includes intelligence funds. We do not need to buy intelligence. There is none is to be had; if there is, it must pay off immediately and shortly after be disclosed.

The FOI would give public access to all documentation of government transactions, all of which must be documented. I believe it should include the transcription of Cabinet and judicial deliberations.

Some argue that such openness will freeze discussion and stifle imagination. Nonsense. Openness freezes only the frivolity that marks official meetings, whose time belongs, not to their jocular participants, but to us. I served a president who frowned on informality. The first casualty of casualness is serious business. In the one and a half years she ruled as dictator under the Freedom Constitution, she got more done that way than the Republic has since achieved under the separation of powers.

The Supreme Court says transparent discussion will intimidate justices. Maybe while it is going on. But if openness intimidates, the justice should resign.

There is a technique of discussion called Delphi, if I recall rightly. It is preferred to free wheeling talk. Anything you want to say, you write on a half sheet and pass around; and reactions must be written likewise. Writing focuses thought and forces you to think hard before initiating or reacting. That or keep silent. The effect is the official documentation of your smarts or lack of it. Today, the half-sheet can be replaced with email, Facebook and twitter. We want more than just accountability from government; we want seriousness with every step. We don't need wit; we need serious solutions.

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