Tañada to Makabayan: Why the FOI flip-flop?
MANILA, Philippines - A day after the Makabayan Coalition, composed of 7 leftist party-list representatives, withdrew their authorship of the proposed Freedom of Information Act (FOI) pending the removal of "Palace exemptions," Malacañang and two Liberal Party solons defended the House version from criticism it was a "watered down version" of the original bill.
Although he respects the position of his colleagues, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada III, principal author of the measure, questioned the motive behind the move.
"This is the same bill that [Bayan Muna] Rep. Teddy Casiño and [Kabataan] Rep. Raymond Palatino voted for when it was passed at the Public Information committee, chaired by my colleague Rep. Evardone. So why the sudden flip-flop?" Tañada said on Tuesday, January 21.
The Makabayan Coalition, which includes Casiño and Palatino, wants to delete Sec 7A of House Bill 6766, which allows the President to issue an Executive Order declaring certain minutes and advice provided to him as classified "by reason of the sensitivity of the subject matter."
This provision was included in the Malacañang version of the bill, which the public information committee adopted as early as March 13.
The leftist lawmakers also want to remove exemptions on information pertaining to national security, as well as on drafts of orders, resolutions, decisions and memoranda.
But Tañada said the exemptions found in the bill were "valid" and could be found in "the best FOI laws of other countries."
'Not watered down'
Malacañang also stood by its version of the FOI.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Malacañang version of the measure even introduced a provision requiring congressmen to upload their Statements of Assets and Liabilities online, which she said was not included in previous versions of the bill.
"So we can't understand what they are saying that the Malacañang version limits the freedom of access for information that the public is looking for because I was one of those who worked in the study group tasked by President Aquino to study the existing versions and versions of other jurisdictions and we can not say that it limits the process," Valte said in a mixture of English and Filipino.
In drafting its version, Valte said Malacañang wanted an FOI Act that gives access to information vital to public interest "but without hampering necessarily the work of government."
Although the FOI was part of President Aquino's campaign promises, he has not indicated he will certify the bill as urgent despite the limited amount of time left in the legislative calendar.
Casiño said they are open to signing as co-authors of the measure again if the exemptions are deleted.
The FOI bill is set to be tackled on the floor Tuesday, January 22.
The Senate already passed its version of the bill on 3rd and final reading December last year. - Rappler.com