Aquino Doesn’t Mention FOI Legislation in Major Speech

22 July 2013

Despite a stress on fighting corruption, Philippines President Benigno Aquino did not mention pending freedom of information legislation in his annual State of the National address (Sona) July 22

Aquino talked for one hour and 44 minutes, with 88 applause breaks, and managing to mention 65 specific topics, according to one media count.

Freedom of information wasn’t one of them.

“There was no mention of the freedom of information bill, which would have cemented the Aquino administration’s push for transparency and accountability…,” commented the Manila Standard in an editorial.

Another editorial, in the Inquirer said:

The President’s inability or unwillingness to make good on his campaign commitment to enact a Freedom of Information law in his first three years imperils the good governance platform he has himself tried to entrench. The time to push FOI is today, the first day of the first session of the 16th Congress; a paragraph in the Sona would spread the word to his reluctant allies.

Former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno was quoted in the Business Mirror as lamenting the failute to mention the FOI bill. “Too wordy. Lots of numbers, but sadly lacking in a concrete program of addressing the high and worsening joblessness problem. The FOI bill was conspicuously left out. I consider it an important aspect of openness and fiscal accountability,” Diokno said. 

On July 20, the FOI Youth Initiative, a network of 120 youth organizations pushing the passage of the Freedom of Information bill, said a mentuon of the bill by Aquino “may catalyze the favorable action that we want to see on the part of the Executive.”

“The FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) believes that the real State of the Nation can only be known if we have Freedom of Information,” the group said in a statement. “Beyond hearing the words of the President, access to information held by the government on matters of public interest should be ensured to enable the people to build and shape their own view of the true state of Philippine society.”

As Congress reconvenes, FOI bills are being introduced and supporters are hoping a more supportive person will be picked to lead the key House committee. Although the Aquino administration agreed to a compromise bill last year, no legislation was passed and many supporters felt the administration failed to support it politically and tactically despite Aquino’s record of supporting it during his campaigns.

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