MANILA - President Aquino will likely push for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, a Palace official said.
Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Manuel Mamba said over radio dzRB that Aquino had committed to have the FOI bill passed before the end of his term. The President made the commitment in a speech before World Bank executives last week.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law is also one of the main priorities, Mamba said. He declined to name other bills that Aquino would include in his SONA.
Mamba said that with the passage of the FOI bill at the Senate, there is reason for the administration to be optimistic that the measure would be enacted before the end of Aquino’s term.
“Hopefully, the (impeachment) process will not take long. We are still hoping that time will be spent on legislation,” Mamba said.
The President is facing two impeachment complaints over the Disbursement Acceleration Program and one over the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Mamba expressed confidence that the complaints against the President would not prosper and that the administration would continue to have a good working relationship with both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
On Friday, FOI advocates handed over to the Palace a petition pushing for the passage of the bill.
The measure aims to eliminate corruption in the bureaucracy by giving the public greater access to government transactions and records.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the FOI advocates were happy about the assurance given by the President on the bill’s passage.
On the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, Valte also said over dzRB that the Palace was making sure the proposed law would be constitutional.
She said they would have to work within the bounds of the Constitution and other limitations to ensure the law would not be questioned in the future.
Valte said the government is seeking a middle ground and is not insisting on its own version by holding consultations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. “We could have just given them (our) version of the draft,” she said.
She also said every Filipino should watch the SONA and “take part in the national discussion on the state of our country, as we reflect on future endeavors and the gains we have collectively achieved these past four years.”
A source said the President and his speechwriters were working on a 32-page SONA draft as of Thursday. The source gave no further details.
Valte said they were expecting some people to make negative comments on the SONA, like the one made by Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who said Aquino’s speech should only be five pages because he had not done much since he assumed office.
“Of course, that’s obviously from the point of view of Congressman Colmenares. That’s the President’s SONA, he can do whatever he thinks is right,” Valte said.
“We have done a lot but again, coming from the point of view of Congressman Colmenares, of course, they won’t say or recognize anything good that was done,” she said.
Allies of President Aquino in the House of Representatives, for their part, gave him a fair grade on his accomplishments in the last 12 months, while those in the so-called independent bloc flunked him on some key areas like unemployment and peace and order.
Reps. Ashley Acedillo and Gary Alejano of the Magdalo party-list group gave Aquino an overall rating of 6.8 for his accomplishments on various areas based on his 2013 SONA technical report, with “1” as the lowest and “10” the highest.
They gave Aquino 7.5 for “strengthened macro-economic fundamentals” owing to increased confidence in the stock market, among others, and over six points for social services.
The lawmakers, however, said the administration “has shown very little cohesion and pooled effort” in rehabilitating areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda. They also cited “serious gaps in planning, preparation and funding.”
They rated the administration’s effort to address unemployment and protect workers’ rights at only 6.67. For its climate change and disaster risk reduction initiatives, the administration got 7.5.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo gave high points to Aquino on the economic front at nine points; good governance and anti-corruption (9); social services (7); peace and order (6); and employment (7).
Marikina City Rep. Romero Quimbo also gave the administration high marks with 9.3 for social services as the highest and job generation lowest at seven points.
“Contrary to what his critics say, it is only under his term where the three branches of government have been able to check on and criticize each other. Under his leadership, healthy debate has been fostered,” Quimbo said.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone cited the great strides the administration achieved for the economy in the last 12 months, “even as there is much to be desired in the delivery of social services, peace and order and employment.”
“The challenge is how to sustain these major achievements and ensure that economic growth is felt by the ordinary people,” he said.
However, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent bloc, said he was not impressed with the performance of the administration in the last 12 months.
He gave Aquino failing marks for the staggering unemployment and underemployment and for the deteriorating peace and order situation.
Romualdez also flunked the administration on social services, particularly on the reported lack of transparency in the implementation of the P62-billion conditional cash transfer program and the dismal rehabilitation of Yolanda-hit areas.
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, a member of independent bloc, gave Aquino a “-1” for peace and order; “4” each for good governance and employment; “7” for social services; and “6” for the economy.
“We apparently have a selective anti-corruption campaign, if you are an ally of the Aquino administration, you are exempted,” Atienza said. “I join the frustration of the people.”
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon, one of the lawmakers seeking Aquino’s impeachment, gave him a ranking of “3” in all areas.
The military, meanwhile, is stepping up monitoring activities and deploying two battalions of troops from its Civil Disturbance Management to augment the Philippine National Police’s 10,000-strong force tasked to keep order during the SONA.
The battalion deployed is part of the Armed Forces’ Joint Task Force-National Capital Region under Brig. Gen. Manuel Gonzales.
“While we don’t monitor any threat except for the scheduled rallies which for us are already a routine activity by anti-government groups, we are not letting our guard down,” a senior military intelligence official said.
The JTF-NCR has also started deploying K9 units and Explosive and Ordnance Disposal teams to strategic areas in Metro Manila, particularly the Batasan Complex. – With Paolo Romero, Jaime Laude