Last 9 November, we welcomed with deep appreciation the Senate’s commitment to pass the Freedom of Information Act without delay. We gave our full confidence to their assurance, made through Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, that Senate Bill 3308 will be passed on second reading by November 18, and on third reading by 1 December. This timetable only gives enough time to convene the bicameral conference committee and report back for final approval of the bill before Congress breaks for the elections on 5 February 2010.

We quote Senator Zubiri’s manifestation in plenary session:

“I assure them, we assure them, that before the break on November 19 that hopefully we will be able to approve this on second reading, and when we get back on December 1, we approve this on third and final reading. We assure them.”

But the promise was not met; the Senate adjourned with the bill still failing to hurdle the periods of interpellation and amendments.

We, representatives of over 100 organizations and coalitions from various sectors comprising the Right to Know. Right Now! Campaign, beg all our Senators to send Senate Bill 3308 to bicameral conference before it again adjourns on 18 December 2009. Since the Senate resumed session last December 1, two session days have passed without any action on the bill. From December 7, we count a mere 6 session days within which to pass S.B. 3308 on second and third reading, and for both Houses to name their delegates to the bicameral conference committee.

We are not losing hope. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has already completed her interpellation. Senator Joker Arroyo has started his interpellation, and only needs to continue and complete the same. Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. has committed to commence his interpellation at first opportunity. Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Francis Escudero have already submitted their respective amendments, and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano has integrated these in the draft Committee amendments along with proposed amendments to address the concerns of Senator Arroyo.

If our Senators will only will it, and be true to the trust of serving the people with utmost responsibility and efficiency, it can be done. We count on the bill’s principal sponsor, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, and co-sponsor, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, to give the bill the decisive push it direly needs in the coming week. We also count on Senator Joker Arroyo and Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. to proceed and complete their interpellation without delay. We count on all our Senators, under the leadership of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, to give due course to the long-overdue passage of the Freedom of Information Act.

We cannot overemphasize the importance that a Freedom of Information Act will play in the maturation of Philippine society and politics. Let it be a historic and lasting contribution of the 14th Congress to political reform in the country, to benefit our generation, and the generations to come.

On our part, if the 14th Congress will finally secure for us our full enjoyment of our freedom of information, we commit to exercise it responsibly.

We call on other groups to join us in the struggle to claim what is guaranteed to us by no less than the Constitution. We ask you to join us as we march to the Senate on 7 December to assert our freedom of information!

3 December 2009.