Where’s the FOI emergency?


I doubt very much if some of the people, lawmakers and clergymen among them, who are urging President Aquino to certify the urgency of the freedom of information bill really know the meaning of an “urgent bill.”

I am not a lawyer, but I certainly need not be one to clearly understand this provision of the Constitution: “No bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days, and printed copies thereof in its final form have been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or emergency.”  And so I ask: What “public calamity” or “emergency” would fall on us if the FOI bill were not passed through the normal legislative timetable?

Indeed, this matter particularly makes me knit my brows in dissent as I read Manila Auxiliary Archbishop Broderick Pabillo urging President Aquino in a related news report “to make a difference by certifying the urgency of the FOI bill.” It confuses me! Does the good bishop really mean a difference or a similarity? I mean, similarity with that which the President had done when he certified the RH bill as “urgent” even though—methinks every right-thinking Filipino would agree with me on this—there was then unquestionably no existing public calamity or emergency to justify its speedy passage. On the contrary, should not a bill that had practically wedged the whole nation in the middle for more than a decade deserve a longer process of national discernment rather than immediate enactment?

But that is water under the bridge! Let not the same characters who had denounced the President for urgently certifying an otherwise nonurgent bill now push him into pursuing a truly bad precedent.


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