Source: The Daily Tribune
Frustrated over the persistent refusal of President Aquino to prioritize the Freedom of Information (FoI) bill to be enacted into law, leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives took matters into their hands and agreed for Congress to prioritize the FoI and pass this bill, as agreed upon by them yesterday during the first-ever Legislative Summit.
The FoI was just one of the measures leaders of both Houses have agreed upon, as confirmed by Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto.
It will be recalled that Malacañang had submitted a list of President Aquino’ bills during the Ledac meeting, but a lot of bills prioritized by Aquino were seen as unimportant in the sense that the bills were perceived by the lawmakers to have ignored the more important bills that would impact on the economy and its growth, as well as certain social and political reforms.
Even more frustrating for the Congress leaders was that none of the bills submitted by Malacañang had any companion bill in both the House and the Senate.
Sotto confirmed that both chambers of Congress agreed to act swiftly on the FoI bill which has been archived too many times and remains unacted upon.
The FoI bill is expected to provide concerned parties easier access to public documents and bring about government transparency.
Malacañang has been reluctant to prioritize the FoI bill and has used too many lame excuses for the administration not to be able to act on this, with a presidential spokesman claiming that “there is sensitive information that should not be made public, such as the public officials’ Statement of Assets and Liabilities Networth (SALn) since they contain the names of the spouses and children of the public officials.
It is the SALn where one can even spot graft and perjury from the assets and liabilities listed down and their worth.
Another time, the Palace spokesmen claimed that Aquino was all-out for the FoI, but that he just wants to ensure that the right to privacy of public officials is not breached, apart from claiming that the information on documents is of a sensitive nature and should not be made public.
Sotto said the FoI is defintely included in the list of priority bills agreed upon by the House and Senate leaders, which means, he explained this would be the first ones to be tackled, out of the thousands of other bills pending at the Senate and at the House of Representatives.
The two chambers of Congress on Thursday held their first legislative summit to reconcile their priority bills, and to tackle how they will proceed with proposals to amend the Constitution.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. for his part said the House will be drawing up its own list of priorities, but assured that the FoI bill will be prioritized, to ensure that the two chambers are working in coordination with each other.
“When a bill is tackled by one chamber (Senate), it does not necessarily mean that it will be taken up by the other house. We just want to be sure that if these bills are prioritized, one chamber will be giving those bills the attention they need,” Belmonte said.
Aquino has been claiming that a Cabinet technical working group, headed by communications undersecretary Manolo Quezon lll, is currently working on its final draft of the FoI bill, saying that the group was formed to discuss minor points in the bill, including the provision on national security, before it is recommended to Congress for approval. aside from the 34 priority bills Aquino identified during his first two Ledac meetings his list of bills he wanted Congress to prioritize, but it is unlikely that many bills in the Palace list are not going to be passed by Congress.