Mar 272014
President Benigno S. Aquino III presides over the Cabinet Meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of the Malacañan Palace on Wednesday (September 04, 2013). In photo are Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr.,Department of Finance Cesar Purisima and , Education Secretary Armin Luistro. (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III presides over the Cabinet Meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room of the Malacañan Palace on Wednesday (September 04, 2013). In photo are Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr.,Department of Finance Cesar Purisima and , Education Secretary Armin Luistro. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Malacañang on Saturday welcomed the decision of a House of Representatives panel to adopt its suggestions on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to speed up its passage.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) undersecretary Manuel Quezon III has already met with proponents from the Lower House to explain Malacañang’s position.

Valte noted that Malacañang had also previously worked with representatives in the 15th Congress on the FOI bill.

“…Sa kagandahang palad naman po in the 15th Congress, the Palace proposal was also adopted by the Technical Working Group of the Committee on Public Information,” she said.

“And even po sa Senate noon, noong 15th Congress, these proposals were also adopted by the Committee under Senator Gringo Honasan,” she added.

For this Congress, Valte said that Malacañang was pleased that its members were open to provisions or proposals from the Executive branch.

Kasi naniniwala po tayo na ‘yung mga provisions po na ‘yon ay naa-address po niya ng buo ‘yung mga concerns ng Pangulong Aquino tungkol po doon sa paghabol ng burukrasya kapag nagkaroon na po ng FOI,” Valte said.

“We’ve always been open to engaging the legislators, especially on the provisions that we have proposed,” she said.

However, Valte said that the President remained to be “judicious” in exercising his certification of power on making the FOI bill urgent.

“So far, the President has been judicious in exercising his certification power,” Valte said.

So iniingatan ng Pangulo na kung ano ho ‘yung nakalagay doon sa Constitution, kung saan ho posible ang certification power, ay doon ho na – doon lang po niya nae-exercise,” she added. (MNS)

Jan 202014
Congress must pass FOI bill before election fever sets in – advocates

Members of the Right to Know Right Now Coalition on Monday gave the the controversial Freedom of Information bill a deadline—before the end of the second regular session of Congress—otherwise, it will likely not pass, they said. The second regular session of the 16th Congress will end in March 2015, giving authors and advocates roughly 14 months to pass the measure that seeks to provide the public easier access to public documents. “It has to be passed before what we call the red zone after the second regular session,” lawyer Nepumoceno Malaluan said in a press forum. Malaluan explained that after March 2015, the legislative branch will be concerned with the upcoming 2016 presidential elections and the annual spending bill. “From experience, they will be saying, ‘[sorry, but] we did our best,’” he said. But it’s not just the relatively short amount of time that could derail passage of the FOI bill anew. Malaluan said the lukewarm response from both the House of Representatives and the Executive could further slow down passage of the bill. “There’s a lack of desire and commitment from the House leadership and the Committee Chair, and the executive keeps leaving it up to Congress,” he explained. Malacanang has stood firm on leaving the fate of the Freedom of Information bill to Congress, saying it cannot force political allies to push for the FOI bill’s passage. Open Data Philippines and FOI Meanwhile, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism executive director Malou Mangahas scored the government over its Read More …

Aug 062013
House Majority confident Rep Almonte can lead committee that handles FOI bill

After admitting that the Public Information Committee was “unattractive” to most solons, former committee chair and Western Samar Representative Ben Evardone nevertheless threw his support behind Misamis Occidental Representative Jorge Almonte. “[The committee] is something not attractive to members of the House, due to the many contentious issues around it,” Evardone said in a Tuesday press conference. The Public Information Committee handles the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which seeks to promote transparency in government transactions and data. Evardone praised Almonte’s performance as a local executive, who consulted with constituents on important matters, saying it was this attention to detail that will hopefully see the FOI bill passed. “He did that as a mayor and I believe that with this chairmanship, for sure he will consult all stakeholders,” he said. It was earlier reported that Almonte will chair the ethics committee, but Evardone revealed that Almonte himself asked for he Public Information Committee. Evardone also noted that while the Liberal Party (LP) had no official stand on the FOI bill, he reiterated that the LP generally stands for transparency and accountability at all times. Evardone, who sponsored the FOI bill in the 15th Congress, advised Almonte to come up with a bill that will not alienate any sector. He also suggested that the FOI bill be “refocused” to highlight the positives, to make the bill more attractive to solons., For his part, Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo said the majority was very hopeful the FOI bill will pass in the Read More …

Jul 272013

MANILA  (Mabuhay) — Neophyte Senator Grace Poe on Thursday vowed to prioritize the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill as chairperson of the committee which handles it, but admitted the Palace is lukewarm about the measure. “There is no denying that it is not the priority… I’d love to see where the concern is coming from,” […]

Feb 062013
House 'kills' FOI bill

The House of Representatives on Wednesday failed to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which seeks to promote transparency in government transactions and data. The chamber adjourned Wednesday’s session without a single mention of the FOI bill at the plenary. The measure has been pending at the floor since December. The FOI bill only went as far as the period of sponsorship—the first step in plenary discussions of the measure—at the House during this Congress. The Senate was able to pass its version of the proposed legislation two months ago. Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chair of the House committee on public information that passed the FOI bill last December, blamed his fellow lawmakers’ “reluctance” to pass the measure for their failure to approve the proposed legislation. “If the congressmen were enthusiastic about it (FOI bill) and showed up during sessions, then we could have acted on it,” Evardone said in a phone interview. He also said that he observed a “lack of support” from his colleagues in pushing for the bill’s passage. Both houses of Congress are to take a three-month break to give way to the campaign period for the May elections. Congress will resume session in June but only from June 3 to 6 before its final adjournment. Palace blamed Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño, however, said that Evardone himself had a hand in “killing” the FOI bill. The measure languished before Evardone’s committee for more than a year before it was recommended for plenary Read More …

Feb 042013
Belmonte gives up hope on FOI bill

With only three session days left to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI), House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday said the proposed legislation is “technically” dead at the House of Representatives.   When asked by reporters if there is no more hope for the House approval of the FOI bill within the week, Belmonte replied, “Yes. I think so.”   He said three session days are not enough to debate on, amend and approve the measure, which seeks to promote transparency in government data and transactions.   “We cannot just curtail interpellation. May mga gustong mag-interpellate,” Belmonte said.   Belmonte, however, said there is still a “slim chance” to pass the FOI bill if President Benigno Aquino III will certify it as urgent.   “If the President certifies it, we can meet beyond Wednesday and Thursday. In that sense, there’s still that slim chance. Hanggang alas-dose ng gabi, basta huwag lang mawala ang quorum,” he said.   Malacañang, however, maintained that Aquino—who won the presidency on a platform of government transparency—is not keen on certifying the FOI bill as urgent without debates at the House.   The Senate last December unanimously passed its version of the FOI. At the House, the measure has yet to end the period of sponsorship—the first step in the plenary discussions of a proposed legislation.  Push for debates   Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, primary author of the FOI bill, admitted that while the FOI bill now needs a “miracle” to be passed, he Read More …

Jan 312013
Despite Palace pronouncement, De Lima says FOI law within reach

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Friday told leaders of foreign parliaments that the Philippines is getting closer to enacting a law on better access to government records. De Lima made the pronouncement despite President Benigno Aquino III being lukewarm to the idea of certifying as urgent the current Freedom of Information (FOI) measure pending in Congress. Speaking at the 5th Global Organization of Parliaments Against Corruption (GOPAC) in Pasay City, De Lima emphasized the importance of having a law that guarantees the public of free access to government records. “Freedom of information is the most effective modality to prevent corruption… [and can] make government officials accountable to any wrongdoing,” De Lima said during the event held at the Philippine International Convention Center. “A freedom of information act is very much within our reach,” she added. This was in stark contrast to a pronouncement made by presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Thursday that Aquino has no plans on certifying as urgent the current FOI bill, a version of which has been passed in the Senate but remains on second reading at the House of Representatives. “We want a healthy debate [first]. Whether [it’s] this Congress, or the next Congress, we want a healthy debate to take place. That’s what we want and in fairness to all constituents, let’s have a healthy debate… and let’s take it from there,” Lacierda said. He also said that the public can be assured of government transparency even with the absence of a freedom of Read More …

Jan 312013
Aquino cautions vs. corrupt future leaders

With the midterm elections just months away and with political groups already gearing for the presidential election in 2016, President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday cautioned that reforms must be maintained to avoid a return to patronage politics and corruption. “Without structural reform, another corrupt president might one day take the reins of power; another chief justice might one day again betray the public trust,” Aquino told attendees in the 5th Global Conference of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, where he was keynote speaker. The conference was a gathering of foreign heads of state to discuss best practices. In his speech, Aquino called on world leaders to be vigilant against corruption, adding that the key to ridding the ranks of government of unscrupulous officials is to make a habit out of transparency by way of creating laws. “The problem of corruption must thus be approached strategically, always with the long-term in mind. Reforms cannot be mere blips in the radar—they must usher in an enduring mainstream of good, honest governance,” he said. “As people in government, we know that corruption cannot be eliminated by sending a few erring officials to jail, or by exposing a single faulty contract, or by removing from office a single oppressive tyrant,” he added. “Only through legislation can the bedrock of inclusiveness and positive, meaningful change be set,” Aquino further said. Aquino, who won on the popular platform of “tuwid na daan (straight path)” also took pride in the gains of his administration, Read More …

Jan 292013
CBCP will support initiatives to determine, choose 'worthy candidates'

After listing the Philippines’ “problems as a nation,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said it will support lay initiatives to form “circles of discernment to choose worthy candidates” in the midterm elections in May. “We will help the people to know the stance of those who run for office on important issues of the country,” it said. The quotes are part of a pastoral statement it issued after a three-day plenary session in which the CBCP enumerated—and blasted—the country’s “long litany of storms,” including the government’s inability to stop a “culture of impunity” that allows extrajudicial killings; its failure to ease the suffering of the poor despite good economic news; and “the promotion of a culture of death and promiscuity” through school sex education, the use of contraceptives and discussions about divorce. “We note the above social and political storms that buffet our Filipino life because they deeply touch the experiences of our people. We speak for those who suffer. We bring these concerns to those who have responsibility and hence accountability. These stormy situations need not be so!” the CBCP said in the statement signed by council president and Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma. RH law denounced anew The CBCP denounced anew the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, and what it claimed were the “political and financial pressures imposed on lawmakers” as well as the “imperialism exercised by secularistic international organizations in the legislative process.” It commended the efforts of lay people and lawgivers who Read More …

Jan 272013
FOI bill faces ‘crucial’ week at the House

The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill is facing a “crucial” week at the House of Representatives, with only six session days left to sponsor, discuss, amend and ultimately pass the measure which seeks to promote transparency in government transactions. Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, who supports the proposed legislation, said the FOI bill is already “dead” if the House fails to pass it on second reading by Wednesday. “We need nothing short of a miracle. Kailangan ma-sponsor siya mamaya, and then it has to breeze through the period of debates and amendments. By Wednesday, we have to pass it on second reading. Sobrang makipot na ang schedule,” Baguilat said in a phone interview. He added that the House leadership has already sent text messages to lawmakers asking them to attend sessions this week to be able to muster a quorum. “Ang sinabi lang doon sa text is that we have to attend to be able to pass important legislations. Walang nakalagay na FOI, pero siyempre, iyon na lang naman ang natitirang mahalagang batas na dapat ipasa,” he said. Baguilat added that FOI advocates are still hoping that President Benigno Aquino III will certify the bill as urgent to be able to fast track its passage at the lower chamber. “Kapag na-certify ito, siguradong papasa ito… I still believe that the President supports the FOI bill and wants transparency in government,” the congressman said. But Aquino, who won the presidency in 2010 with his anti-corruption platform, said over the weekend that he Read More …