Malacañang on FOI: It’s now or never

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MALACAÑANG is putting its best foot forward in having the Freedom of Information (FOI) measure passed by asking congressional leaders to immediately act on it, noting that the bill’s future is bleak unless it gets approved before President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s term ends.

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“Their concern is more on the next administration. So, the President has put forth in his budget message to Congress his commitment to FOI,” its spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Wednesday.

Lacierda added that Malacañang will mobilize their allies in the House of Representatives.

“So we will just ask the Majority Floor Leader [Neptali Gonzales Jr.] if he can calendar the FOI bill for second reading and, hopefully, it will move. It certainly would require some debates if there are people who have concerns with the FOI,” he said.

The FOI bill has cleared the committee level at the House of Representatives.

Lacierda believes that the House Committee on Information, headed by Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge Almonte, will work on it quickly.

“So we’re just hoping that the House leadership will schedule it for second reading already. We have heard Speaker [Feliciano] Belmonte Jr. He already mentioned publicly that he will pass the FOI bill,” Lacierda said.

The Senate has passed Senate Bill 1733–its version of the proposed FOI Law–on March 10, 2014.

But House Bill 3237 or the proposed FOI Law, which establishes the legal presumption that people should have full access to government information, remains pending in the House of Representatives.

According to Lacierda, FOI advocates have never questioned the commitment of the Aquino administration to transparency and accountability.

Reacting to criticisms on why Aquino left out the FOI in his recent SONA, the Palace spokesman explained that “the budget message of the President is equally, if not, more powerful than the [SONA].”

Senators also on Wednesday praised the President’s push for the FOI bill.

Sen. Grace Poe said the bill would help the administration’s campaign against corruption.

“I welcome and thank the President for the inclusion of the FOI bill in his budget message,” she added.

“I assure the President that the passage of the FOI bill will complement his commitment against corruption for the remainder of his term and beyond,” Poe said.

Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo called on her colleagues in Congress to support the passage of the bill.

“I thanked the President for including FOI as one of his administration’s urgently needed billss. I am hopeful that this measure will be passed before the end of this 16th Congress,” she said.

WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND RHAYDZ B. BARCIA

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2 Comments

  1. One of the topics tackled in the talks in ted.com is the Freedom of Information law around the world. If I remember correctly there are only about a dozen countries in the world that have such a law and the speaker was pointing to the difficulties inherent to passing such a law. Among the highlights of an FOI is that a citizen is entitled to inquire into how a member of congress has utilized his/her official finances and the congressman shall under the law be subject to the penalty provided therein should he refuse to comply with the inquiry within the period specified. Do you think that such a law will have a chance in a legislature of thieves like what we have here? Good luck.

  2. Why didn’t the President push it at all in the last 5 years ?
    How about the anti dynasty bill ? 28 years of not passing it by the dynasty congress

    Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago asked the senate to act the anti dynasty bill last March 2014 and they did nothing but ignore it.
    What have they been doing the past 5 years ? Getting richer, traveling to the United States to watch a boxing match ?

    Those useless plundering clowns called a Congress are occupying seats that are supposed to go to representatives of the people. At some point these dynasties will have to be removed and probably have to be by force.

    If and when this happens confiscate the ill-gotten wealth of Presidents and their co-conspirators businessmen, mayors, congressmen, senators, members of the cabinet and sub-cabinet levels and appointee’s to the failing Depts.