Some called it the President’s best State of the Nation Address (SONA), but to others, it was disappointing because it made no mention of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill. One of those who felt let down was Vice President Jejomar Binay who admitted that he was hopeful that the President would tackle the anticipated measure in his speech on Monday.
“I have been waiting for his endorsement on the FOI [bill]but it didn’t come. And there were also a lot of achievements on the housing sector but these were not mentioned,” Binay said.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello was also dispirited because of the President’s failure to include the FOI measure in his SONA.
“Overall I would say it was an effective speech. To a certain extent he disarmed his critics but there were certain holes, and the biggest hole was the lack of the mention of the FOI [bill],” Bello said.
“[The President’s legacy] is the anti-corruption struggle and one of the best ways to prevent corruption is to have a Freedom of Information Act,” he added.
“What many of us FOI champions waited for was the Freedom of Information Act. This was quite disappointing to me personally because we have been working on this for so many years now and we had been told [that]at last it has become a priority of Malacañang,” Bello told reporters.
Bello expressed hope that Aquino’s silence on the FOI bill will not mean an uphill battle for the passage of the measure in Congress.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also on Monday gave assurances that the bill will be one of the chamber’s priorities.
But Sen. Grace Poe, author of the FOI bill in the Senate, noted that the measure does not need the President’s backing to get going.
“Although the President did not mention the FOI [bill], I am optimistic that this important measure will be passed under his leadership. This was passed on third reading in the Senate without the President’s certification,” Poe said.
The senator admitted that she was dismayed over the failure of the President to mention the fate of the FOI.
United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Secretary General Tobias Tiangco said this year’s SONA was Aquino’s best since 2010.
“He stuck to the issues. [Tickled the critics, unlike before when he punched them]. He is a human being, he also has a right [to get hurt].
He stuck to the issues by talking about the problems of the country and the daily problems of the people, what he has done and what he plans to do,” Tiangco added.
Sen. Sonny Angara however said the President’s speech lacked substance.
“I would have wanted to hear more about the concrete solutions of the administration in addressing the energy crisis,” Angara said.
Although disappointed, Binay said he is in favor of Aquino’s plan to submit a supplemental budget to Congress for projects previously funded by the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
“The supplemental budget is a reaction to the decision of the [Supreme] Court, which stated that the budget appropriation should come from Congress. That would be the right thing to do,” the Vice President told reporters.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate will support the supplemental budget that Malacanang will ask Congress.
“This is badly needed to fund government projects that were temporarily stopped. We need to wait for the SC to decide on the motion for reconsideration filed by Malacanang and from there, we will take the cue,” Drilon added.
He said he has no idea how much Malacanang will ask.
Angara also welcomed the President’s move to seek a supplemental budget, noting that with such a gesture, Aquino has finally recognized the decision of the Supreme Court declaring DAP unconstitutional.
With Llanesca Panti and PNA