By Emmanuel Mongaya
Believers like Rep. Erin Tañada might have thought that ‘Matuwid na Daan’ would lead to the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and signing into law by President Noynoy Aquino. Months ago, Tañada bared some 117 congressmen having expressed support. But the road is turning out to be a dead end for FOI.
Never mind that freedom of information practically provides teeth and sustains “matuwid na daan” despite its growing constituency. The P-Noy administration obviously does not want FOI. Aside from having low ratings in the surveys, Tañada’s FOI advocacy was among the reasons why he is not in the Liberal Party’s senatorial slate.
Some 69 countries, including such new democracies as Serbia, Croatia, and Serbia and Herzigovina, have their respective laws guaranteeing freedom of information.
Unfortunately for the Philippines, the son of democracy icons Ninoy and Cory Aquino has taken his own sweet time pushing for the bill.
This practically opens the way for Sen. Gregorio Honasan of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) and his “People’s Ownership of Government Information” or POGI bill.
Last November 30, Sen. Honasan presented his POGI bill before some members of the Cebu media at the Allure Hotel in Mandaue City and declared that if all are serious, the bill will practically become a law before the year ends. However, the process could also drag and reach the next Congress.
Days earlier, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he supports speeding up the approval process for Freedom of Information as long as it will be known as POGI. Enrile is the father of UNA candidate for senator Jackie Enrile and a political ally of Honasan. The latter was Enrile’s aide when the two joined forces with then General Fidel Ramos and sparked the Edsa uprising that toppled the Marcos dictatorship and ushered the Cory administration in 1986.
As this developed, the House version of the FOI bill met further delays. Although 17 congressmen voted in favor of the bill to bring it to the plenary level, Rep. Ben Evardone who heads the House Committee on Public Information called for another committee meeting on December 11, 2012 to allow committee members to sign the report.
It all depends on President Aquino, Honasan said, adding in jest that P-Noy is probably more powerful American President Barack Obama. The senator apparently referred to P-Noy’s supportive majorities at the Lower House and the Senate as well as having been able to appoint a chief justice.
Over the weekend, FOI advocates called on both houses of Congress to immediately tackle the bill in plenary and urged P-Noy to certify it as urgent. Time is obviously running out with Congress taking its Christmas break in three weeks and the campaign period coming up. But is President Aquino listening?