PNoy hit for excluding FOI bill from priority list

By Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 10 2011 02:59 PM | Updated as of Feb 11 2011 04:37 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, composed of multi-sectoral groups, appealed to President Aquino to reconsider his decision and include the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in his list of legislative priorities.

In a press conference, Atty. Nepo Malaluan, lead convenor of the coalition, said including the FOI in this administration's list of priority bills will send a strong signal that  the President is committed to his anti-corruption agenda.

"Sa aking palagay, napapanahon ngayon sa gitna ng isang imbestigasyon na mukhang malalim na korupsyon sa AFP, aming ipinapaabot kay Pangulong Aquino ang pagbanggit dito sa FOI bilang isa sa priority bills niya na dapat magbigay ng matibay na mensahe na seryoso ang kanyang pamahalaan sa pagsugpo ng korupsyon. Napakalaki ng papel kapag nagkaron ng FOI act sa pagbago ng kultura sa mga kasama natin sa pamahalaan," Malaluan said.

Media groups also supported the appeal.

Ed Lingao of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said they are holding the President accountable for his promise made during his campaign where he said that the FOI bill would be included in his administration's priority bills.

"We wish to hold him accountable for the promises he made during his campaign where he pledged transparency and support for the FOI bill. Not including the FOI in his list of priority bills was quite unexpected. We thought we found a champion in transparency and accountability, we hope he is just ill-advised," Lingao said.

The group added there is enough time to convince the President to reconsider his decision before the LEDAC convenes by the end of the month. They are willing to sit down with the President to iron out his apprehensions on certain provisions of the bill instead of setting it aside.
Last Tuesday, Aquino said he is not comfortable that all “raw information” on government affairs should be made public.

“Iyung Freedom of Information, we still need to work on it,” he said.

Study first, push later

Meantime, Malacañang wants to study first different models in first world democracies before it present a Freedom of Information (FOI) bill it can push in Congress.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said on Thursday that Malacanang wants to balance the constitutional right to access to information and issues on privacy and national security.

"Certainly, we are committed to and to uphold the constitutional right to access of information. That's what we believe in and that is what this administration also would wish to uphold. But then again we have to balance this with the privacy concerns and that is the reason why we are studying several models right now before we come up with a bill," Lacierda said.

"Before we present a bill, we'd like to as much as possible make the bill as smooth as possible. We address national security concerns, we address privacy concerns. We would also like to prevent the abuse of the use of the Freedom of Information and those are the concerns that we have right now," he added. -- with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News