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Monday, September 1, 2014

Rough Sailing Seen for Freedom Of Information in House

A freedom of information (FOI) bill may not be approved unless Malacañang is granted its wish for a total adoption of its disastrously watered down version of the measure.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, one of the original authors of the FOI bill, said Malacañang’s continued snub of the FOI measure as a priority bill could mean that the “daang matuwid (righteous path) policy” is a mere propaganda that President Aquino is using in an attempt to maintain popularity.
In a press statement, former Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante himself chided the Aquino administration for saying the FOI need not be included in the list of legislative priorities because it is not a case of national emergency.
Abante, chairman of the Bayan Mamamayan Abante Movement, stressed that Aquino “should certify the FOI bill as urgent since battling corruption is a matter of national emergency in our country – and any means to combat graft should be considered as such.”
Ridon lamented that the House has been taking its own sweet time in deliberating on the measure although it has been included among the priority measures under the leadership of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

He said Malacanang has been pushing for the adoption of its version of the bill over the reluctance of some congressmen.
Ridon criticized Aquino for certifying the “sin tax” measure urgent when the FOI could be considered more important.
“President Aquino should stop fooling the public. If he is indeed for full transparency and accountability, he should once and for all certify FOI as urgent,” said Ridon.
He asked: “Mr. President, did you consider that billions of public funds are easily being funnelled by corrupt politicians to their own pockets because of lack of public scrutiny?
In a recent interview the President said he was not certifying the measure as urgent as it was not an “emergency.”
Abante said the President’s statements “betrayed a poor understanding” of the issues involved in the FOI advocacy.
“This is not about his administration or any specific administration; what we want is to institutionalize measures that will deter and expose corruption at all levels of government. For someone who purportedly claims to be a champion of good governance, the President’s lukewarm reaction to FOI is perplexing.”

A former chairman of the House Committee on Public Information, Abante has made the most successful attempt to have an FOI measure passed during his term in the 12th Congress.
Taking a lesson from his experience, Abante said presidential support was preferable “as his allies in the Lower House have interpreted the President’s lack of enthusiasm for the FOI as a clear sign that FOI is not a legislative priority of his administration.”
Abante was hopeful that the growing clamor for the FOI bill would encourage the President to change his mind about the measure.
“It is encouraging that the Vice President and other vocal leaders have thrown their support behind the bill; hopefully others will follow suit,” said Abante.
Vice President Jejomar Binay has made no secret about his support for the FOI bill.
During the President’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), the frontrunner for the 2016 presidential polls, by survey results, said Aquino should have mentioned the measure in his speech – and was surprised when he did not.
“You know, I was expecting that he will touch on the FOI. Just like you, I suppose everybody was hoping for [his stand]…whether he would endorse it or hold it in the meantime,” Binay said.
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