No FOI in Aquino's 2012 SONA

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Jul 23 2012 10:59 PM | Updated as of Jul 24 2012 06:43 PM

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino on Monday drew flak from media organizations for failing to include the freedom of information (FOI) bill in his discussion points during his 2012 State of the Nation Address.

Aquino's hour-and-a-half long address tackled various issues, including an indirect mention of the reproductive health bill, but not the freedom of information bill and its various versions that have been filed in Congress through the years.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said Aquino mentioned the Ampatuan massacre but he did not discuss how to end impunity in the Philippines and the passage of the FOI bill, which is authored primarily by a Palace ally, House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III.

The President earlier said he supports the FOI bill and submitted a Palace version to Congress.

The Palace version inserted revisions into Tañada's version.

However, the measure has yet to see the light of day.

FOI bill doomed?

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in a statement, said despite Aquino's pledge of transparency in government and making the issue "a linchpin of his presidential campaign and his subsequent insistence that only his version would do, the Freedom of Information bill remains in legislative limbo in a House so firmly in his control."

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño warned on Monday that the freedom of information bill is "doomed."

"Third SONA na hindi pa rin binanggit," he told ABS-CBN News.

Meanwhile, House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Janette Garin believes that Aquino should not be criticized for failing to either mention or endorse the freedom of information bill in his 2012 SONA.

She said the bill was not mentioned because Aquino knows that there are still discussions at the House committee level.

"'Di pa tapos pag-usapan," she said.

"But I do believe that the next 3 SONAs we'll have, it will be included. He was clear in saying 'I want an FOI law that's acceptable,'" Garin added. - with ANC; report from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News