Quantcast

Editorial

House hypocrites


On the proposal to enact the constitutional promise of freedom of information, the calculated incompetence of the House committee on public information has led to the outcome it wanted all along: deliberate inaction. The committee’s failure on Tuesday to even put the Freedom of Information bill to a vote, after an agonizing procedural detour, means there is very little chance that it will become law under the 15th Congress.

One FOI advocate, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, thinks there may still be time within the month for the committee to redeem itself and report out the bill to the plenary. Most other advocates, however, have looked into the eyes of the House leadership, and read there the bill’s obituary.

The statement issued by the Right to Know Right Now Coalition used the language of crime to describe Tuesday’s legislative maneuver.

“Battery, assault and murder—this was what happened to the FOI bill today at the hearing of the Committee on Public Information of the House of Representatives. The FOI bill is dead in the 15th Congress.”

Forceful, dramatic language, but entirely in the right. What happened the other day (or, rather, what did not happen) amounts to a crime against the people.

It is a crime in which the Aquino administration and the Liberal Party, which came to power in 2010, are complicit. Earlier this year, the administration proposed a substitute FOI bill, which its communication group described as “an integral element of the Aquino Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan of 2012-2016, which the President has recently approved subject to further refinements. This plan contains reforms and initiatives that pursue greater transparency, accountability and citizen participation in governance.”

We are aware, of course, that not every administration measure becomes law, and that even priority bills can fail to pass through the legislative mill. But the FOI bill is different, for two distinctive reasons.

First, President Aquino himself campaigned for the presidency on the passage of the FOI bill, among other promises, precisely because he saw it as an integral part of the initiative against corruption. And second, the administration coalition that runs the House can function with enviable efficiency when it wants to; however, when the conduct of the committee on public information can be accurately described as a bitter comedy of procedural errors—failing to find a meeting room in the sprawling Batasan complex to host a committee hearing, for example, or using up the time in a rare committee hearing to discuss the minutiae of procedure that had already been discussed and resolved in a previous meeting—then the truth becomes obvious: The House leadership, and the administration it works closely with, do not want the FOI cause to advance.

The cause of the latest delay in the already extended legislative struggle over the FOI bill betrays the real issue at stake.

For some inexplicable reason, committee chair Rep. Ben Evardone (incredibly, a former journalist) allowed Rep. Rodolfo Antonino on Tuesday to complain interminably about the supposed failure of the Technical Working Group to consider Antonino’s right of reply bill. This was absurd on many levels. The procedural issue had already been taken up. The urgency surrounding the FOI bill could not be denied. Not least, the right of reply measure had nothing substantive in common with the FOI bill. The very concept of right of reply is philosophically antagonistic to freedom of information; it is a patently unconstitutional attempt to control the editorial content of the news media. That it managed to suck up all the remaining oxygen in Evardone’s rare, ridiculous hearing is telling.

It tells us that the real issue is not journalistic responsibility in the use of public records, or even the government transparency that FOI seeks to put in place, but political power. Or to be more precise: the power of the political class.

The right-of-reply feint is the political class’ attempt to level the playing field, as the politicians understand it, in their favor: They seek to exchange the privileges they would lose under an enacted FOI with the privileges they think they will enjoy once politicians get to dictate editorial content. Battery, assault—and murder.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=40826

Tags: conflict , editorial , freedom of information bill , House of Representatives , Legislation , opinion



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

  • Lacson eyes P106-B ‘Yolanda’ rehab masterplan
  • What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  • Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  • 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  • Napoles surgery in Makati hospital successful
  • Sports

  • Mixers trim Aces; Painters repulse Bolts
  • Donaire junks Garcia as coach, taps father
  • ’Bye Ginebra: No heavy heart this time
  • UAAP board tackles new rules
  • Baguio climb to decide Le Tour de Filipinas
  • Lifestyle

  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  • Visiting chefs from Denmark get creative with ‘ube,’ ‘ buko,’ ‘calamansi,’ mangoes
  • Salted baked potatoes
  • A first in a mall: Authentic Greek yogurt–made fresh in front of diners
  • Entertainment

  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • In love … with acting
  • From prison to the peak of success
  • ‘Asedillo’ location thrives
  • Business

  • Cost-recovery provisions for affected gencos urged
  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Philippine Airlines to stop shipment of shark fins
  • PH banks not ready for Asean integration
  • Stocks down on profit-taking
  • Technology

  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos in Middle East urged to get clearance before returning
  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
  • Marketplace