FOI not a priority?
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
Despite of the crusade of the Aquino administration against corruption and commitment to the so-called “Tuwid na Daan”, the Freedom of Information bill that seeks to impose speedy procedures for obtaining documents of high public interest, has been languishing in the House of Representatives. The bill that should open the doors for a more transparent government remains in the first stage of the legislative process: pending approval on first reading before the House committee on public information.
What is worse is that the FOI bill does not seem to enjoy priority status in Congress, having its latest committee hearing postponed yet again because the House committee on public information chairman, Rep. Ben Evardone, was not able to find a conference room for it.
Even if a signature campaign launched by the principal authors of the bill has gathered support from 117 members of the House of Representatives, the FOI bill is running out of time. With elections seven months away, bills not approved by the present 15th Congress will go back to square one when new members assume their posts in June 2013. Many assumed the FOI bill to be among the priorities of the Aquino administration, especially after it failed to pass despite being just one step away at the 14th Congress under Speaker Prospero Nograles. However, President Aquino has surprised us, by not only failing to give the FOI bill his seal of approval that would have allowed it to breeze through Congress, but his numerous allies in the House have also been tolerating the delaying tactics that threaten to put it in limbo yet again.
It says a lot about this administration that the Cybercrime law, the one that came under fire for supposedly threatening the freedom of expression on the Internet, got higher priority than the Freedom of Information bill that is supposed to make our government more transparent and accountable. Over 90 nations have some sort of freedom of information legislation enacted, and the Philippines remains without such a bill. Is the passage of the FOI law too much to expect from the administration and allies of the man whose parents are icons of democracy in this country?*