11 July 2012


Coalition Urges PNoy: Lead, Remember FOI in SONA

A MULTISECTORAL delegation of the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition met with Press Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III on Wednesday to deliver a joint letter to President Aquino with an urgent appeal for him to make a clear and firm endorsement of the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act in his state-of-the-nation address on July 23.

The move was in part a response to a recent statement by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda that the President is open to suggestions on the themes and contents of his SONA. The Coalition expressed hope that after failing to make it to the first two SONAs of President Aquino, the FOI will finally be given the attention it rightfully deserves in the President’s priorities.

In the letter, 80 leaders and signatories from about 160 organizations that compose the Coalition said there is no more reason for the President to skip mention of the FOI in his SONA because he had himself endorsed in a press statement in January 2012 an administration version of the bill.

The Coalition said there is every reason for the President, as he begins his third year in office, to now accord the FOI its deserved place as framework and direction of his campaign against graft and corruption.  The passage of the FOI Act will be an indispensable step to institutionalizing transparency as the mandatory norm rather than a discretionary practice of all government officials and agencies. The FOI Act could well serve as the solid foundation for  “daang matuwid” to carry on to succeeding administrations, the letter stated.


House inaction

The Coalition emphasized the leadership ramifications of a decisive endorsement by President Aquino of the passage of the FOI bill at a crucial juncture when the House leadership has shown a lack of political will to even take the first steps to pass it.

In contrast to the Senate where a substitute bill endorsed by nearly all its members has already been sponsored in plenary by Committee Chairman Senator Gregorio B. Honasan II, the measure remains stuck in the counterpart House committee chaired by Rep. Ben Evardone. Even the President’s Liberal Party and administration coalition allies in the House have largely ignored his verbal push for the passage of the FOI bill over the last six months.

The Coalition stressed that every day of inaction by the House diminishes the prospects of the passage of the FOI bill, and conversely increases the ability of those opposed to the bill to prevent its passage.

Given that the time available to pass the measure is fast closing in on the 15th Congress, the Coalition argued that a decisive push from the Executive, similar to what we have seen in the postponement of the ARMM election, the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the ongoing legislation of the sin-tax bill, will be necessary for the FOI law to finally pass.


Broad Clamor

The letter-request is in itself a demonstration of the wide clamor for FOI. More than 80 heads of organizations from various sectors signed the letter, including the media, labor, business, academe, lawyers, the church, students, and public interest organizations.

The coalition committed to intensify its campaign in the coming weeks.






Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition

Email: nepo_m@yahoo.com

Mobile: 0918 927 1501

(Read the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition’s Letter to President Aquino by clicking this link.)