MANILA, July 29 (Mabuhay) — Why did President Benigno Aquino III once again fail to mention the Freedom of Information (FOI) in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA)? That’s because he already vowed to pass it, his spokesman said Tuesday.
In a television interview, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino’s commitment to pass an FOI law before his term ends in 2016 is already “as clear as day.”
“This is his SONA. He believes what is going to be put in it. He had said it [FOI bill] in the Daylight Dialogue… He said he is going to push for it before the end of his term,” the Palace official said.
Besides, the government is already giving the public access to data through Open Data initiative, Lacierda added.
During a forum with business leaders last July 15, Aquino committed to pass the FOI bill before the end of his term, but said he could not certify the measure as urgent yet.
Business leaders and members of the media have been actively pushing for the FOI bill’s passage.
Last week, advocates of the measure transmitted a petition with 38,200 signatures calling on the President to enact a law that will promote transparency in government data and transactions.
Aquino, who won the country’s top elective post on an anti-corruption platform, has never mentioned the FOI bill in his past five SONAs. He also has not included the measure in his priority legislations during his almost four-year-old presidency.
In a separate statement, Senator Grace Poe, FOI bill author, said she still hopes the President will push for the measure in his fifth SONA.
“Although the President did not mention FOI, I am still optimistic that this important measure will be passed under his leadership,” Poe said.
The Senate has already passed the FOI bill, but the measure is still at the committee level at the House of Representatives. Both chambers of Congress are dominated by Aquino’s allies.
Last Congress, the Senate managed to pass the FOI bill on third reading. The House, however, killed the FOI bill on the floor, after more than a year of languishing at the public information committee. (MNS)