, 2010 (STAR)  (Xinhua) - Lawmakers belonging to the Liberal Party, the political party of presumptive president-elect Benigno Aquino III, will push for the immediate passage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI), a law that requires the State to disclose all transactions of public interest.

The passage of the said bill is in line with Aquino's campaign promise of eradicating poverty by rooting out widespread corruption, according to Quezon Representative and Liberal Party Spokesman Lorenzo Tanada III.

"The FOI allows any citizen to access any information from any agency in the government. We (the Liberal Party) are for transparency and we believe that one way to curb corruption is to make every transaction as transparent and as open as possible," Tanada said in an interview with Xinhua. Tanada is the lead author of the Lower House's version of the FOI.

"One way to reduce of poverty is to lessen, if not eradicate, corruption," Tanada said, noting that corruption reduces the government resources for social services.

While the Philippine economy has grown steadily for the past few years, poverty remains a problem, with a third of its population subsisting on less than $2 a day. The Asian Development Bank noted in its 2008 report that widespread corruption has kept poverty level high as it undermines tax collection, reduced resources for infrastructure development and discourages investment.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution ensures the people's right to information. According to the Constitution's Bill of Rights, " access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to limitations as may be provided by law."

Several advocacy groups and media organizations have lobbied for the passage of an FOI bill for the last 14 years, but it was only in the 14th Congress that such efforts were bearing fruit. The FOI bill's bicameral committee report has been passed by the Senate on February 2 and has been awaiting action by the Lower House since the bicameral report has been filed on February 1 with the Congress' Bills and Index division.

Aside from the passage of FOI, Tanada said that another key legislative agenda under Aquino's term is the review of the procurement law. The law was passed in 2003 and standardizes the Philippine government's public procurement system.

"This law allows for greater transparency. What is important now is to assess if it has been able to curb corruption," he said.

Tanada added that Aquino is not likely to impose new taxes just to plug the country's budget deficit. Aquino will instead focus on better tax administration and curbing smuggling.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves warned that the budget deficit in 2011 could reach as high as 4.4 percent of the county's GDP if Aquino won't consider imposing new taxes under his administration.

But Tanada said that Aquino has a different plan in tackling the deficit, which is now equivalent to 3.3 percent of the GDP.

"His (Aquino's) primary objective at this point is to stop leakages. He's not looking into possibility of raising value added tax in order to increase revenue for incoming administration. We have to concentrate on plugging (tax) leakages and making sure that smuggling is curbed," he said.

"If this is done, then there will be enough revenues for government to spend without raising taxes," Tanada concluded.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved