MANILA - Congress may have gone on recess without passing the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, but it doesn't mean the Aquino administration can no longer do anything to promote transparency, Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said on Friday.
Cayetano said President Aquino can issue an executive order directing government agencies to make records available to the public while the FOI bill is still pending.
"We need structural and institutional reforms and maybe an executive order ordering all government agencies to exercise utmost trasparency," he said.
"The President can file administrative cases against officials who do not follow that executive order," Cayetano added.
Media groups and activists have blamed Aquino and the ruling Liberal Party for the death of the freedom of information (FOI) bill in the lower House.
A manifesto signed by more than 160 activists, media groups, non-government organizations, and sectoral leaders said efforts to have the 15th Congress pass the FOI bill went for naught because of Aquino.
"Instead of giving the FOI Bill priority, Aquino hobbled the campaign from the beginning with his variably petty and serious mutating concerns about the FOI Bill," the manifesto said.
It pointed out that the FOI campaign "committed one big error" in trusting Aquino and his promise 3 years ago that the bill will be given top priority.
"The House assured the death of the FOI bill by deliberate inaction. Committee on Public Information Chairman Rep. Ben Evardone, who had jumped ship from the Lakas-Kampi party of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to join Aquino's Liberal Party, simply delayed and cancelled committee hearings on the bill on and on," it said.
"When finally the committee members forced the vote to send the bill to plenary, two more Lakas-Kampi turncoats to LP holding the highest positions in the House – Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II – made sure the FOI bill will not get off the ground," it added.
The FOI proponents said Aquino did not listen to their appeal to certify the passage of the bill as an urgent measure.
"His response, given through his spokespersons was curt — he wants to see a 'healthy debate' on the FOI bill in the House," the group said.
The signatories include Nepomuceno Malaluan, of the "Right to Know Right Now! Coalition"; Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines; Malou Mangahas of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism; Florangel Rosario-Braid of the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communicationl Rowena Paraan of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; Vincent Lazatin of the Transparency and Accountability Network; Luis Teodoro of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility; and Red Batario of the Center for Community Journalism and Development. - with a report from Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News