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Pork scam spotlights urgent need for FOI

/ 10:07 PM July 24, 2013

The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill has long been stalled in Congress. Despite the strong clamor of well-meaning and good-intentioned members of society, the House of Representatives failed to enact a very important piece of legislation that would have given teeth to transparency and accountability measures in government bureaucracy.

It is a sad commentary that the House leadership of the 15th Congress, as well as the committee tasked to facilitate and hasten the passage of the FOI bill, opted to dilly-dally on the deliberations on the bill in committee meetings and plenary sessions. While the Senate demonstrated its capacity, desire and willingness to pass this much awaited bill, the House showed its lack of concern for a legal mechanism that would make easy for the people to obtain public information and records from government, except those on national security matters.

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The recent exposé that told of unparalled and nauseating corruption involving billions of pesos has all the more accentuated the need for people to have access to public records. And particularly with the existence and easy availability of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, notoriously known as pork barrel, the people see the FOI as an effective deterrence to the commission of graft in government.

Just imagine the number of hospitals, health centers, schools, libraries, roads, bridges and irrigation systems that could be put up if anomalies involving public funds could be prevented through the FOI. Consider, too, the benefits that will be enjoyed by public school teachers, government doctors, nurses and other public servants—undoubtedly overworked but underpaid—if billions of pesos were spent for their salaries and other reasonable perks instead of being diverted to the pockets of unscrupulous  government officials, such as the most “honorable” members of Congress.

So, as efforts are being exerted by some dedicated public servants and concerned individuals in the private sector to curb graft and corruption and alleviate poverty, the poor continue to be mired in poverty. Indeed, it’s infuriating that greedy politicians don’t give give a damn about the pitiful condition of the masses as long as they wallow in wealth “milked” from anomalous deals and transactions involving public funds.

With the ease corrupt politicians are able to accumulate wealth through the graft and corruption, it’s no wonder they prefer, nay, work for, the nonpassage of the FOI bill. And the scheming lawmakers are employing all means—such as by proposing Charter change and filing a divorce bill—to  divert the attention of the people from the urgent need to enact the FOI bill into law.

Is this the “daang matuwid” of President Aquino? Nakakahiya!

—EUSEBIO S. SAN DIEGO,
founder, Kaguro, and former president,
Quezon City Public School Teachers Association
[email protected]

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TAGS: congress, FOI Bill, Freedom of Information, letters to the editor, opinion, pork barrel scam
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