Yesterday, seven members of the Makabayan bloc, including myself, withdrew our authorship of the FOI substitute bill scheduled to be introduced in the plenary this afternoon.
We did so for two reasons. One, to put on record that we are not in favor of the bill as currently drafted. Two, to pave the way for our active participation in the period of interpellation and amendments as it would be awkward for us to remain as authors and yet debate against several provisions and push for substantial amendments.
I have previously and in several instances expressed the bloc’s critical stance vis a vis certain provisions lobbied by Malacañang, which were adopted by the Committee on Public Information and reflected in the substitute bill to be sent to plenary. In the last two committee hearings, I put on record that while I am not objecting to the bill’s approval at the committee level to expedite its passage, I would raise critical issues and make the proper interventions in plenary.
While it is true that we have limited time – all of eight days – to get the job done, that is no reason to abdicate on our duty to ensure the passage of an FOI law that would truly enhance, and not restrict, our people’s right to information. A few hours of debate in the plenary to refine the bill is needed.
Friends in the cause have questioned why only now? Well, because now is the proper time to raise these issues in the legislative mill. We did not want to add to the clutter at the committee level, where the process had been delayed for more than a year already, thanks to its indicisive leadership and Malacañang’s delaying tactics.
The main threat and obstacle to the passage of a genuine FOI has always been President Aquino himself, who on his first day in office flip-flopped on his campaign promise to push for such a law. Had the President been serious about the FOI’s passage, Congress would have done the job as quiickly as it impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
And so it has come to this – eight days to do our job and pass the bill. This is deja vu. During the last administration, it was also a photo finish. We managed to pass the bills in Congress and the Senate yet the consolidated bicameral conference committee report did not pass in the Lower House due to a lack of quorum. Huwag naman sana.
The Makabayan bloc will do its best to expedite the required amendments to the bill given our very limited time. Its a tight window but it can be done if Malacañang and the House leadership is intent on the bill’s passage.#