Malacañang on Sunday clarified that the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill remains a priority under the administration even if it is ranked 18th in a list submitted to Congress.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said while the measure remains pending, its spirit is already in effect.
“Kahit hindi pa ‘yan naipapasa ay isinasakongreto na po, sinusunod na ng pamahalaan, ipinapatupad na. Buhay na buhay na po ang diwa ng Freedom of Information Bill sa lahat ng mga ahensya ng ating pamahalaan [Even if it has not been passed, the government is already implementing the aims of the measure. The spirit of the Freedom of Information bill is very much alive in all agencies of the government],” Coloma told government-run dzRB radio.
The FOI bill was listed at number 18 in the priority measures submitted by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to Congress last week.
Coloma said the number does not mean the bill is 18th in Aquino’s priority bills.
“Just because it was placed at number 18 does not mean the FOI bill does not rank high in the list of priorities. It was simply an enumeration,” he explained.
When asked if the President is committed to the passage of the FOI bill despite not certifying it as urgent, Coloma said, “That also depends on the commitment of stakeholder groups to pressure their lawmakers, and if a consensus could be reached to speed up the process.”
Nonetheless, the administration supports the passage of the bill, he stressed.
The bill, which seeks to promote transparency in government data and transactions, was passed in the Senate in March, but is pending at the House of Representatives.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier said there are still concerns from legislators about the bill that need to be addressed.
He added that the version passed by the Senate was “in all respects” the version that the Palace submitted.
“Our position is this is a bill that needs to be discussed… because it will affect everyone. A healthy discussion will lead to a better product,” Lacierda said.