Contact person: Sabrina Gacad @ 09178386944
For Immediate Release
9 August 2012
Palace Preparing Implementation of FOI, says Coloma, in Budget Hearing
At the budget hearing of the Presidential Communications Operations Office on Thursday morning, Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma declared President Aquino “whole heartedly and totally supports” Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, upon the inquiry of Akbayan Representative Walden Bello.
Because the bill failed to move in the Lower House Committee on Public Information, Akbayan made use of the 2013 Budget deliberations to secure Malacañang’s commitment to pass FOI before the end of the 15th Congress, stressing the fact that FOI will ensure the victory of the Filipino people against graft and corruption in all levels of public office.
“We want to clarify, once and for all, what President Aquino’s stand is on FOI. It has been stuck in the committee for the better part of the 15th Congress, and legislators are getting the message that it may not be a priority of the administration after all,” Bello explained.
Coloma assured Bello that the President is for the FOI, adding that it is not the President’s character to declare support for a proposal if he does not mean it.
To underscore the administration’s commitment to FOI, Coloma also explained that the President has ordered the PCOO to draft FOI implementing guidelines according to the specifications of the various government agencies’ structures. Coloma said that the PCOO is drafting rules and regulations per agency in anticipation of FOI’s eventual passage to ensure that the various government agencies’ policies will be in line with securing the people’s unimpeded access to information.
Coloma also said that Malacañang’s release of its own version of the bill, to ensure that national security, foreign relations, diplomacy and business stability concerns are duly addressed, is a clear indication that FOI is a priority.
“Some members of Congress, including the Committee on Public Information Chairperson Rep. Ben Evardone, seem to mistake the President’s silence on FOI to mean that the measure is not an administration priority,” Bello explained to Coloma. “They use this as an excuse to delay the passage of the FOI, even in the Committee level.”
Coloma clarified that the President’s silence on the measure must not be misinterpreted to mean that FOI is not a priority, but is in fact only the President’s respect for the separation of powers, and the independence of the legislative as a co-equal branch of government.
“That Malacañang is setting the stage for FOI in the executive is truly a welcome development,” Bello lauded the PCOO’s updates, pointing out that this indeed secured the administration’s commitment to institutionalize transparency and accountability in government.
In conclusion, Bello reminded the PCOO that Congress looks to the President for a clear signal that would spur them to pass FOI.
“Ang kulang na lang sa tuwid na landas ay FOI,” Bello concluded. “With the full support of the Filipino people, the administration has made inroads against corruption and has begun to restore integrity in government institutions. To make this change lasting, the administration now has to show members of the 15th Congress that it is 100% behind the Filipino people in the passage of Freedom of Information.”
The Freedom of Information Bill continues to languish in the Committee on Public Information, after Committee Chairperson and Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone failed to schedule the committee vote that will send FOI to plenary that he promised would take place on August 7.
Bello, with Deputy Speaker Lorenzon “Erin” Tañada, III, lead 117 members of Congress in declaring their commitment to pass the Freedom of Information Bill in a signature drive that came out in major broadsheets last Monday. ###
Sabrina Laya S. Gacad
Senior Legislative and Media Officer
Office of Hon. WALDEN F. BELLO
AKBAYAN Party-list Representative
House of Representatives
Quezon City, Philippines