MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Loren Legarda, one of the cosponsors of the freedom of information (FOI) bill in the Senate, has called on President Aquino to rally his allies in the House of Representatives behind the government transparency measure.
Legarda joined the clamor of her Senate colleagues for the President to certify the FOI bill as urgent. The bill is known as the proposed People’s Ownership of Government Information (POGI) Act.
While the Senate has passed its version of the bill on third and final reading, the House plenary has yet to receive the committee report on the measure.
“As a cosponsor in the Senate, I hope [President Aquino] takes action as it will surely aid in gathering more support for the bill in the lower house,” Legarda said in a text message.
“Certifying the FOI bill as urgent will send a clear message to our fellow legislators that the President considers the measure a vital tool for effective governance,” she said.
Congress resumes session on Jan. 21 before it breaks for the three-month campaign period on Feb. 8.
In her cosponsorship speech for the bill before the congressional recess, Legarda said the various controversies that hit the Arroyo administration in the past decade have caused Filipinos to doubt the capability of the government to serve the best interest of the people.
Something to hold on to
“While the present administration is undertaking efforts to elevate the citizens’ trust and confidence in the government, we must give the people something that they can hold on to,” Legarda said.
“Under this proposed measure, we aim to feed our people with information about us, the leaders they elected in office, and the businesses our offices deal with. All government agencies will be mandated to disclose information on public interest transactions, documents or records,” she pointed out.
Sen. Francis Escudero, an ally of President Aquino, earlier expressed the belief that Mr. Aquino was just waiting for the right time to certify the FOI bill as urgent.
Aquino just waiting
“It would definitely help but Malacañang can only do that after it has been reported out to the plenary. Certification signifies that the Palace is behind the measure and carries a lot of political weight,” Escudero said.
Sen. Gregorio Honasan, chair of the Senate committee on public information and main sponsor of the People’s Ownership of Government Information Act, in December had called on the House to prioritize its version of the FOI bill and suggested that President Aquino certify it as urgent.
“I want to inhibit myself from commenting on the dynamics of the bigger house…but having said that, I think they should develop a sense of priority not only from the House but from the executive department,” Honasan said in a phone interview after the Senate passed the POGI bill, the Senate version of the FOI measure.
“I think this bill is worthy of being certified as urgent. There are so many landmark pieces of legislation that are now on our table. It would be good timing,” he added.