Grace Poe stumped by Palace lack of interest in information bill
MANILA, Philippines—The passage of the freedom of information bill obviously is not one of Malacañang’s priorities and the new chair of the Senate committee on public information wants to find out why through “heart-to-heart discussions” with President Benigno Aquino III’s official family.
Sen. Grace Poe has said the enactment of an FOI measure was one of her priorities as chair of the information panel despite the administration’s apparent lack of interest in its passage.
“I really want to conduct hearings on this [bill]. This is the backbone of public information,” Poe said during the weekly news forum at the Senate.
Poe filed on Wednesday a resolution calling on the appropriate committees to conduct hearings on the proposed transparency measure.
There are, at least, freedom of information bills pending in the Senate, including a direct initiative submitted by the Right to Know Right Now Coalition.
“I don’t think there will much discussion but the cause that I would like to give attention to obviously is the side of Malacañang because there is no denying that it is not their priority measure and they have some reservations, and they filed their own version,” Poe said.
The Senate passed FOI bills twice in the last two congresses. The House did not pass it this year and failed to ratify the version reconciled by the bicameral conference committee in 2010.
Despite being a campaign promise of President Aquino’s in 2010 and Malacañang even drafting its own version in the past three years, the measure languished in the House committee on public information.
Poe said she wanted to know what was behind Malacañang’s reservations “because the executive is a significant part of this whole process and the people had given President P-Noy an overwhelming mandate.”
“We really also have to take into consideration what the President thinks about it. There are other points to ponder here,” Poe said. “Obviously, it’s not their passion but they’re also not doing anything to kill the bill.”
Poe indicated it was important that an FOI measure be put in place to institutionalize access to government information before the Aquino administration bows out in 2016.
“But it’s up to them to see if this is really something that they need to prioritize. What I think is that it is a safety (mechanism) for us, especially that in 2016, we will have a new administration. It’s better that we are able to have a guarantee that we have access to information,” Poe said.
Besides the direct initiative filed by the people’s organizations, FOI bills were also filed in the 16th Congress by Senators Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, JV Ejercito and Alan Peter Cayetano.
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