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The House and its wrong priorities

/ 12:10 AM December 30, 2015

Despite the strong clamor of the people for Congress to enact two long-sought pieces of legislation, its leadership continues to dilly-dally on the passage of the freedom of information (FOI) and the antipolitical dynasty bills. Why?

In a speech at the House of Representatives before Congress adjourned last Dec. 16, Speaker Feliciano R.
Belmonte Jr. announced that the House will tackle and work for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the bill aimed at amending certain economic provisions of the Philippine Constitution.

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Approval of the FOI and the antidynasty bills has long been the top advocacies of various sectors and organizations, including the Kapisanan ng mga Gurong Retirado (Kaguro). Pardon the insistence and repetitious calls and appeals, but Kaguro believes an FOI law will immensely help in curbing corruption in the government bureaucracy as it will give flesh and blood to public officials’ accountability in matters that include, but not limited to, deals, transactions, purchases and other expenditures using public funds.

Besides, the Constitution is very clear on the right of the citizens to people’s unfettered access to government records. Article III, Section 7 provides: “The right of the people to information… shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”
It is a sad commentary that this provision in the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution is ignored by members of the House. They take for granted the fact that an FOI law will foil and forestall attempts of unscrupulous public officials to steal from government coffers. The gargantuan pork barrel scam would not have happened had an FOI law existed.

Likewise, the lawmakers don’t give a damn about the importance and necessity of the antidynasty measure. Aside from giving chances to other more qualified citizens to get elected, this piece of legislation will also help in stopping corruption as it will foil collusion among members of the same clans and families.

Needless to say, legislators continue to “dribble” this measure as its enactment will adversely affect their hold on power. The country abounds with political dynasties and their number is expanding. No wonder the bill has long been stalled in the legislature.

And now, the House leadership has announced that the passage of the controversial BBL and Charter change is its priority—this despite the fact that so many kinks need to be ironed out before the two bills can be enacted. Also, these two measures need further deliberations and study. Their enactment can wait. But the FOI and antidynasty bills are long overdue—much awaited and justly demanded by the people.

Amid the worst conditions obtaining in our country, the House has set its priorities wrong. How disheartening!

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

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TAGS: anti dynasty, antidynasty, Bill, bills, congress, delay, FOI, Freedom of Information, House, law, letter, opinion, pass, ratify
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