Journalist-turned-solon files Bangsamoro FOI bill

RIGHT TO INFO. BARMM Parliament Member Amilbahar Mawallil (center) and Deputy Minority Floor Leader Baintan Ampatuan (left), and another colleague in a huddle about the Bangsamoro Freedom of Information Bill during a session break on Friday (Mar. 19, 2021). The proposed measure seeks to implement the people’s right to information in the region. (Photo courtesy of BIO-BARMM)

COTABATO CITY –A journalist-turned-lawmaker in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) filed the region’s first Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to provide the public wider access to public records.

Member of Parliament (MP) Amilbahar Mawallil of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) said Saturday the FOI bill has received a positive response from BTA colleagues.

“We believe that our people deserve to know how the regional government works. They have the right to know its dealings,” Mawallil said.

Mawallil and Deputy Minority Floor Leader Baintan Ampatuan filed BTA Bill No. 83 or the proposed “Bangsamoro Freedom of Information Act of 2021” on Friday.

“We owe it to our people to be transparent about the operations of the regional government,” Ampatuan said.

Mawallil and Ampatuan explained that once passed into law, every person shall have the right to access, examine, and copy information, official records, public records under the custody or control of the Bangsamoro Government, and to documents and papers about official acts, transactions or decisions.

Under the bill, all BARMM offices shall automatically disclose the following public records on their respective official websites like audited financial statements, annual budget reports, itemized monthly collections and disbursements, summaries of income and expenditures, and revenue targets and actual collections.

Statements of debt services, annual procurement plans and procurement lists, building processes, deadlines, and requirements, public bidding, loans, grants, development assistance, programs from domestic and foreign financial institutions, investment programs, and executive issuances (executive orders, memoranda, administrative orders, proclamations) shall also be made public.

The Bangsamoro Information and Communications Technology Office (BICTO) shall be mandated to monitor the websites of all the offices of the BARMM and provide appropriate support, Mawallil said.

He said the Bangsamoro Information Office (BIO) would serve as the FOI focal office that will oversee the implementation of the provisions of the act.

Also, the BIO shall be tasked to develop standard forms for the submission of requests and the proper acknowledgment of such requests.

“More so, the BIO shall also prepare a Right to Information Manual which shall be readily available to the public at no charge,” Mawallil said.

The FOI bill was also co-authored by Minority Floor Leader Laisa Alamia, Deputy Minority leaders Suharto Ambolodto and Rasol Mitmug Jr., and MPs Don Mustapha Loong and Rasul Ismael. (PNA)

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