Aquino Doesn’t Mention FOI in State of the Nation Speech

23 July 2012

Philippines President Benigno Aquino did not mention the Freedom of Information bill in his annual State of the Nation address July 23, disheartening FOI supporters.

The pro-FOI  coalition had urged him to draw attention to the legislation, which has passed the Senate but seems to be stalled in a House committee.

“The committee’s chairperson, Rep. Ben Evardone, a former journalist, and the House majority coalition led by the President’s Liberal Party allies, have largely ignored Mr. Aquino’s administration measure,” according to the Philippines Center for Investigative Journalism.

Domestic and international groups urged Aquino to raise the profile of the FOI bill, and expressed disappointment that he did not. The Senate-passed bill is essentially the bill Aquino’s administration submitted earlier this year. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) Although the president voiced support for FOI in his campaign, he has not mentioned it in any of his three State of the Nation speeches.

The 160 organizations and civil society leaders that compose the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, submit a letter July 12  in which they “earnestly appealed” for Aquino to mention the FOI bill. “Unfortunately, despite your earlier endorsement of an amended FOI bill, its passage remains uncertain.” Separately, 73 international groups supported the FOI bill in a July 19 letter in which they said that as a member of the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership “it is incumbent on the Philippines to adopt right to information legislation.”

“Quezon Rep Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III, an Aquino ally and partymate, admitted that he was dismayed but said the omission is not a sign that the bill can no longer be passed this year,” according to an article in rappler.com.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño warned that the freedom of information bill is “doomed,” according to ABS-CBN News.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement that the bill “remains in legislative limbo in a House so firmly in his control.”

House Senior Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Janette Garin was quoted by ABS-CBN News as saying that Aquino did not mention it because he knows that there are still discussions at the House committee level.

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