THE House of Representatives conducted an online survey about whether the Freedom of Information bill (which really seems to be ready for passage by the majority) should include a provision requiring media (newspapers as well as broadcast stations) to “give” people aggrieved by a report or any article the “right of reply or the ROR.”
As of yesterday, Wednesday, October 1, 2014, the survey shows that a large majority of the congressmen and women are against messing up with the FOI bill that is ready to be passed overwhelmingly. No less than 71.18 % of the members are against putting the ROR provision and only 27.07 % are in favor.
The majority who do not favor delaying the passage of the FOI bill by putting in the controversial ROR are being practical, patriotic and serious about minimizing corruption in government.
The newspapers and broadcast stations, except a crooked very few, do give anyone who has a complaint about the way he or she was written or talked about the space and radio or TV time.
There are those, however, who just wish to complicate matters or make things difficult for the media by demanding that the reply be made on exactly the same page and space if a newspaper or the exact time and show in the case of radio and TV. The reality of publishing and radio and TV programming makes this demand almost impossible to carry out.
We call on the members of the House, who we believe has a majority of right-thinking and patriotic lawmakers to pass the FOI bill soonest. The Senate version has been waiting for months now.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines correctly calls for the passage right now of the FOI bill.
In a statement, whose content we completely endorse, the NUJP said:
No More Excuses, FOI Right Now
There is no more reason for the committee on public information of the House of Representatives to continue delaying the progress of the Freedom of Information bill and entertaining the addle-minded attempts of some lawmakers to force the inclusion of a right-to-reply provision in the measure.
Especially not after the clear results of the online poll on whether an ROR provision should be inserted into the FOI bill that our “honorable” representatives posted early this month on the House of Representatives’ website (http://congress.gov.ph/).
A poll, mind you, which they very suspiciously did not announce but which nevertheless could not slip past the vigilance of right to information advocates.
As of Wednesday, October 1, 2014, the survey shows 326 Votes (71.18 %) against the ROR and 124 Votes (27.07 %) for the ROR, with only eight undecided votes.
Any more hedging on the matter can only bolster suspicions that the corrupt and the inept will not stop moving heaven and earth to prevent the passage of this landmark legislation, especially since the Senate passed its version months ago.
We challenge the members of the House, particularly public information committee chair, Rep. Jorge Almonte, to immediately resume the legislative advance of the FOI bill or drop the pretense of being the representatives of a people whose rights you continue to ignore and whose wishes you continue to spurn.