President Benigno Aquino 3rd is not certifying as urgent the freedom of information (FOI) bill despite his campaign promise to push for its passage.
At the Daylight Dialogue on Tuesday, a forum attended by World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Aquino explained that he could not certify the measure as urgent “because the Constitution requires an emergency.”
He, however, assured the public that the bill will be passed into law before he steps down in 2016.
“I regret I cannot certify it as urgent because the Constitution requires an emergency, but the assurance I think should be given, at this point in time, that it will be passed before the end of my term,” Aquino said in response to a question on the FOI bill from Ramon del Rosario Jr., Makati Business Club (MBC) chairman.
“Somebody who was frustrated in the search for information previously, especially when I was in the legislature, there is a need for that. And we have suggested to Congress certain amendments [to]the proposed measure that we will make it really a doable activity for government,” he added.
The bill, according to the MBC chairman, would institutionalize Aquino’s tuwid na daan [straight path]policy that will be carried out in the next administrations.
Aquino said the government is dedicated “to do what benefits the vast majority of people at the soonest possible time.”
He added that his administration “can never be satisfied with the status quo. It is with this belief that we have always evaluated ourselves, and revisited programs and policies to ensure the utmost efficiency in rendering service to the Filipino people.”
“This is the only way that the Philippines can continue on its upward trajectory, and reap the benefits of the reforms that Dr. Kim cited earlier, this is the fastest way we can move toward the vision we share with the World Bank, a future of true inclusivity and equitable prosperity,” Aquino said.
Malacanang earlier said it supports the FOI bill but argued that the administration has already “implemented the principles of FOI in concrete measures” and the fate of the law is up to the legislators.
“We recognize the principle in the Constitution regarding the different duties of each branch of government, and the passage of the law is the primary function of the lawmakers,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.
Languishing in Congress for over a decade, the FOI bill aims to institutionalize the right to know and policy of public disclosure enshrined in the Constitution by providing a system for ordinary citizens to access government documents and information.
Malacanang declared the FOI bill a priority measure in 2013, three years after Aquino made a campaign promise to push for its passage.
But the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac)—the body formed to serve as a venue for Malacanang to seek Congress support for the administration’s priority programs—is yet to convene this year.
It also failed to convene last year because of the May 2013 elections, which shortened the Congress schedule.
Malacanang, however, said this would not affect the Aquino administration’s push for its agenda.
“The legislative liaison process between the executive and the legislative is very much alive such that even without the formal convening of a Ledac meeting, that we were not able to see for the whole of 2013 and you are still awaiting for 2014, this does not mean we are no longer coordinating,” Coloma said.
He added that the government has a legislative liaison office for every national government agency and department working with Congress.
“Our Cabinet clusters are able to identify priority measures for each cluster. Even in advance of any Ledac meeting, these are conveyed to our lawmakers and they have started work on it. Most of our priority measures, there have been bills filed,” Coloma said.