Considering the adverse reactions coming from our fellow FOI advocates to our bloc’s withdrawal of authorship to the FOI substitute bill, I would like to make some clarifications to clear the air.
One, the Makabayan bloc, just like most of you, had always been critical of the Malacañang version of the bill, which was eventually adopted by the Committee on Public Information. From the very first time that Usec. Manolo Quezon presented their version to the public in a forum at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) last year, I had already expressed my objections and my intention to strike out the Palace-lobbied restrictive provisions even at the committee level.
However, tactics as agreed upon with the principal author Rep. Erin Tañada compelled us to hold our peace just to liberate the FOI bill from the committee, which had been sitting on the measure. In the last two committee hearings, I categorically put on the record my intention to question said provisions in plenary and introduce ammendments.
Two, we saw it fit to withdraw our authorship of the bill as a matter of principle and to pave the way for our active engagement in plenary. It would have been awkward for us to have remained as authors yet question, debate, object and push for substantial ammendments to the bill.
The decision to withdraw was made in a caucus of our bloc only last Monday afternoon, a few hours before the resumption of the current 9-day session. It would have been ideal for us to have communicated this decision to the network, but there was no opportunity to do so.
We publicly announced our withdrawal and exposed the flaws of the substitute bill in order for the public to understand our subsequent actions in plenary. I think it is impoortant, as FOI advocates, to stress that the substitute bill is not what we really want especially since we are still given the opportunity to ammend it.
Three, we never called supporters of the substitute bill “minions” or “lap dogs” of Malacañang. Nowhere in our written or verbal statements were such words expressed, even insinuated. We maintain the highest respect to our friends and fellow FOI advocates who, as many have said, “swallowed the bitter pill” just to move the measure in Congress.
Now the bitter pill is in plenary and we have, as House members, the opportunity to improve the bill. Would you rather that we, for the sake of expediency, abdicate on our duty as progressive legislators? Why swallow the bitter pill when we still have the chance to convert it into a sweeter syrup?
Four, our withdrawal of co-authorship does not hinder the passage of the bill. As I have said before, it is the President himself and the House leadership that have put obstacles to the FOI’s passage. Our intention to interpellate and ammend the bill is no reason for the House leadership to withold sponsorship in plenary. Precisely, it is in plenary where debates and ammendments are done, especially on such important bills.
Lastly, the chance of passing the FOI is getting dim but we should not give up. We still have six days in plenary. We should work together to pressure the House leadership to allow the period of sponsorship, interpellation and ammendments to be finished by Wed, January 30. Since this has not been certified as urgent, we need to have the bill appoved on second reading by that time for it to be approved on third reading before we adjourn on Feb. 6.
Tuloy ang laban para sa FOI! #