Miriam to netizens: Pressure Aquino, House on FOI
MANILA, Philippines – A disappointed Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago turned to netizens to ensure that the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill is passed despite the refusal of President Benigno Aquino III to certify it urgent.
Santiago said Malacañang’s statement that Aquino will not certify the FOI bill urgent despite a campaign promise to push for its passage dismayed her.
She said after the Senate passed the FOI on Monday, the bill’s fate in the House of Representatives is uncertain, and it is now up to Internet users to ensure the bill languishing in Congress for a decade becomes a law.
“There are slim chances or dim chances that it will be similarly passed in the House of Representatives plus we’ve had an added blow because the President refuses to certify it as urgent. I hope netizens can exert sufficient, educated public pressure on all these entities to shake a leg and pass the FOI bill because it’s been passed in other countries,” Santiago told reporters on Wednesday, March 12.
Santiago said there is no reason for the President to fear that the FOI bill might lead to the revelation of state secrets.
“He’s just afraid that if we have highly secure information that he will be compelled under the bill to disclose it to the public, jeopardizing national interest. I think his fears are unfounded.”
“There are things that must be kept hidden from public view for the sake of the country. To reveal it publicly might be counterproductive to us. I think that might be the main motive behind the President’s decision,” she added.
The Senate version of the FOI bill lists exemptions including information that will jeopardize national security, foreign relations, law enforcement operations, trade and economic secrets, individual’s right to privacy, privileged information as considered in judicial proceedings, or information made in executive sessions of Congress and those covered by presidential privilege.
Santiago said the burden is now on the House of Representatives because she believes Aquino will not veto the bill if the chamber passes it.
The senator laughed when told about Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr’s statement that “You can hang me” if the House does not pass the FOI bill in the 16th Congress.
“Huwag naman. (I hope not.) He thinks it should be passed by the House of Representatives. If the House passes it, the issue is whether the President will be able to veto it. I don’t think he will once the hand of the House of Representatives becomes more apparent in the proceedings. I think President Aquino will come around.”
The FOI bill institutionalizes the constitutional right to know and policy of public disclosure. It sets up a system for Filipino citizens to request and be granted access to records or information under government control. Journalists and transparency advocates have long been lobbying for the passage of the bill.
‘I only want to look at JLaw’s face’
After the passage of the FOI bill at the Senate, Santiago is pushing for another measure: the Anti-Epal bill that she authored.
The bill bars politicians from claiming credit for public works projects by allowing only the government agency’s name, image and logo to be included in the signage.
She again cited social media as a factor in her anti-epal advocacy.
“The people are sick and tired of these faces. If the people want to see their faces in the morning, they should wash their face and look in the mirror. They can look as long as they want but they should not inflict their faces on the public. I don’t want a person staring at me in the morning especially since I don’t particularly like the person or the features of the face,” she said.
The senator who previously imitated Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games series even mentioned the actress who played the role.
“If it were a picture of Jennifer Lawrence, it might help me start my day at a beautiful note but otherwise I want to spit at the person, so can you please stop putting your ugly mugs on these billboards. We’re one of a few countries that are happy, at liberty to put our faces, features of identity on public places,” Santiago added.
“Kung sa Tagalog man, nakakahiya kaya dapat bigyang pansin ang anti-epal bill.” (It’s embarrassing so we should pass my anti-epal bill.)
Santiago’s bill is pending before the Senate committee on public works.
‘Use FOI to choose candidates’
Now that the FOI bill is passed, Santiago said netizens must make use of her amendments in the measure which require public officials like senators and congressmen to post online their total income, whether taxable or not.
The senator again argued that officials have many sources of income other than their salary like allowances and commissions, and the public should know how much they are actually in earning. Senators, for example, earn a total of P1.4 million, much higher than their P90,000 monthly salary.
She said the passage of the FOI bill is crucial in choosing candidates for the 2016 polls.
“If they are voting for me for senator, I want the public to know how much I receive so they can decide if the candidate is worth that kind of money.” – Rappler.com