'Parochial concern' stalls FOI
MANILA, Philippines - A "parochial concern" once again stalled the Freedom of Information Act.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday, January 22, failed to sponsor the FOI bill on the floor for the second day in a row.
The reason? Davao del Sur 1st District Rep Marc Douglas Cagas was going to question the quorum because he did not want Republic Act 10360 -- which splits Davao del Sur into two and creates a new province called Davao Occidental -- to be read on the floor and referred to the archives for records purposes.
It was unclear why Cagas didn't want the bill to be read at the plenary. After all, RA 10360 had already been signed into law and the only way to contest its implementation is to file a case before the Supreme Court.
Cagas told reporters after the session: "Ayoko basahin na nandito ako. Sana nasa district ako," (I don't want it to be read while I'm here. Hopefully, when I'm in my district.)
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada, principal author of the measure, said Cagas allowed his "parochial concerns" to get over a national issue such as the FOI.
"I still feel that as long as people rise above their parochial concerns considering this is already an RA, there won't be any law that can stop the creation of Davao Occidental. It has been signed. He was letting his parochial concern get above the higher concern of pushing for the FOI," Tañada said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The House version of the bill that created Davao Occidental was authored by Davao del Sur 2nd District Rep Franklin Bautista. The Cagas and Bautista clans are known rivals in Davao del Sur.
"This is the same as what happened in the 14th Congress when the issue of who would sit in one district in Cebu was stalling the movement of the FOI in the House," Tañada recalled.
The allies of Cebu 4th District Rep Benhur Salimbangon were then blocking Celestino Martinez from being installed in the House roll after the Supreme Court declared him as the winner in the 2007 elections. Debates on the issue prevented the House from tackling the FOI.
In the 14th Congress, the FOI was due for ratification on the last day of session but Camiguin Rep Pedro Romualdo questioned the quorum.
Mustering a quorum - only solution
Tañada said he appealed to Cagas to just let FOI proponents sponsor the bill on the floor even without a quorum, but the Davaol del Sur representative was "adamant" that he did not want RA 10360 read on the floor.
During Tuesday's session, Deputy Majority Leader Janette Garin was also seen talking to Cagas.
There were only about 114 representatives present on the floor before Tuesday's session was adjourned, said Acting Majority Floor Leader Bolet Banal.
Had there been enough lawmakers, Tañada said he would have contested Cagas' move. But since there was no quorum, the FOI proponents deemed it better to adjourn the session.
Akbayan Rep Walden Bello said Cagas is also expected to attend Wednesday's session.
The only way for the FOI to move is for the House to muster a quorum on Wednesday, January 23, and the remaining session days.
Tañada said he expects Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr to tell lawmakers to attend sessions since the House also needs to ratify bicameral reports of pending bills such as the Anti-Money Laundering Act. - Rappler.com