Why is FOI bill not a priority?Cebu Daily News
An admission by Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar that the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill isn’t a priority of the Aquino administration is both shocking and yet lamentable to the national media and proponents of free speech and press freedom.
For far too long the Aquino administration has skirted on the issue, saying on one hand that it continually adheres to press freedom as one of the cornerstones of the country’s democracy while calling on media outlets to exercise better judgement and responsibility.
Yet, Evardone’s admission douses cold water on the administration’s pronouncements and on the faces of those who believed that the bill will be passed within the Aquino administration’s lifetime.
While we would still like to hear an official pronouncement from the President himself—which is highly unlikely given that he has a thousand and one things to do and he would likely skirt this issue anew by focusing instead on the criticism leveled on his administration—Evardone’s statement can be taken at face value.
The congressman chairs the House committee on public information which has entertained at least three proposed versions of the FOI bill which range from dropping the prison term in terms of higher penalties and the so-called “Right of Reply” bill that threatens to designate offended parties and complainants as backseat drivers in the media outlets.
In between those discussions, the President had been having a field day whining on and sermonizing the country’s major media outlets into doing their jobs better and responsibly, never mind if the criticism leveled on him has yet to reach the degree achieved by his unlamented predecessor’s administration.
One particular target of his was a major TV network that for all intents and purposes was perceived as helping spearhead his ascendancy to the Palace since the fate of the founders were intertwined with President Aquino’s father, who coincidence or not, started his professional career as a journalist covering the Korean war.
But the President, being raised in the Palace and ruling over a bailiwick province where his father hailed from and also spent a portion of his political career in, may have never developed a personal appreciation into the inner workings and challenges faced by the men and women in media never mind if his family had experienced firsthand a dictator’s heavy-handed wrath.
Pray tell, how can the President expect his anti-corruption campaign that was anchored on transparency and accountability to further succeed without arming the media and the citizenry with the means to access information that would keep negotiations and policies aboveboard and public officials like himself honest?