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Is FOI bill doomed in 16th Congress?

09:00 PM December 29, 2013

Corruption is almost everywhere but no freedom of information (FOI) is in sight. As repeatedly said by people hoping to see an end to this moral decay in government, the FOI will immensely help in curbing, if not totally eradicating, corruption in public service as it will help ensure transparency and accountability in deals and transactions entered into by our public officials.

But despite the people’s clamor for the enactment of an FOI law, this much hoped-for piece of legislation is doomed in the 16th Congress, especially in the House of Representatives. Here are some reasons it is so.

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First, majority of the lawmakers are lukewarm to the enactment of an FOI law. It’s not in the priority list of even the so-called “progressives” in Congress. Note the deafening silence of representatives of party-list groups, particularly those representing the real and true marginalized sectors.

Second, the leadership of the House is regrettably not keen on approving the FOI bill which has long been stalled in committee hearings and plenary sessions. And consider the fact the leadership of the present Congress is practically the same as that of the 15th Congress that “dribbled” the bill.

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Third, the number and graveness of the problems confronting the nation appear to “bury” the FOI bill in the piles of unacted proposed legislative measures. As a result, deliberations on the eagerly awaited measure have been relegated to the backburner, so to speak. These problems, as everybody knows, include, but are not limited to, the Philippines-China row over the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea, the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam, the siege in Zamboanga by the Muslim rebels, the rift on the Philippine claim to Sabah, and most of all, the rehabilitation of the provinces in the Visayas that were ravaged by an earthquake and a supertyphoon.

And fourth, President Aquino did not again certify as urgent the FOI bill. Despite his promise, made during the 2010 presidential election campaign, he is not pushing for the enactment of the bill, which will give credence to his “daang matuwid” crusade.

I am an incurable optimist, but realities in the current atmosphere and conditions point to the nonpassage of this very important and necessary legislation. Indeed, they spell doom for the FOI bill in the current Congress. But I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

—EUSEBIO S. SAN DIEGO,

[email protected]

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TAGS: congress, freedom of information bill, letters
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