MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 8, 2011) - Filipino leader Benigno Aquino III assured the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) in the coming months as his administration finalizes its own version of the proposal, a government spokesperson said.
“We are now in the final stages of completing the administration version and once it is completed, yan po ay isa-submit natin sa Ledac (Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council) at isa-submit sa ating mga mambabatas so that it can take its due course,” Secretary Herminio Coloma said.
There are changing perspectives and the administration as well as the opposition have different views on the issue but the general preference of legislators is to proceed with the measure that they already tackled, Coloma said.
Many provisions of the FOI bill are already included in the existing laws, he said, adding the overall atmosphere of accountability and transparency in the last 11 months of the Aquino administration has been good, noting that the President has not issued any order barring government officials from attending congressional inquiries like what happened in the past administration.
He also cited the calibrated preemptive response carried out by the previous government to quell mass gatherings that threatened the Arroyo leadership.
“Kahit naman wala pang pormal na pagpasa ng FOI ay tanungin natin ang ating mga sarili if we have enjoyed more or reduced accountability,” he said, adding that freedom is an important gauge for the working press.
Legislators failed to muster the quorum required to approve the bicameral conference committee version of the bill on May 24, the last day of the regular session for the 14th Congress. If passed, the FOI bill would empower not only journalists but also citizens who want to know how public money is spent.