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.
“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