Palace explains ‘missing’ FOI in SONA

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday, July 29, explained why President Benigno Aquino III did not mention the Freedom of Information (FOI bill) in his 5th State of the Nation Adress (SONA). 

Responding to questions, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in an interview on ANC that the President decided to exclude the FOI bill in his address since he had repeatedly given his “clear as daylight” assurance that he would see through the passage of the measure within his term.

The last time the President mentioned it, he said, was at the open forum during the Daylight Dialogue in Malacañang Palace on July 15, in response to the question of  Makati Business Club chairman Ramon del Rosario.

“He already mentioned it. In the Daylight Dialogue together with the World Bank, he mentioned it: 'I want an FOI to be passed before the end of my term,' and he was  very emphatic about it,” he said.

When told that a lot of people were waiting for Aquino to mention the FOI bill, Lacierda said: “This is the SONA of the President also....The President already said it. In fact, he told us, ‘I’ve said it in the  Daylight Dialogue.’”

The FOI was only one of several issues that Aquino was observed to have left out in his SONA this year. (READ: SONA 2014: What Aquino did not say)

Open data

Lacierda said that he, as chairman of a government task force on open data, has reiterated the President's commitment to FOI advocates.

“That’s our commitment. That’s as clear as daylight, when the President already said, ‘We’re going to push and make FOI a law before the end of my term,’” he said.

The Palace official also said that Malacanang is pushing for the integration of open data – Aquino’s initiative – to the FOI bill. 

Lacierda said Representatives Henedina Abad of Batanes and Leni Robredo of the Third District of Camarines Sur – both partymates of the President – are interested in incorporating open data to the FOI bill.

He said that under the scheme, all government data would be published in a single government portal, data.gov.ph.

Responding to questions sent by reporters, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr provided the same explanation when asked about the issues that the President had left out of his SONA, including the row with China, and the fact that Aquino did not dwell on the impending power problem, among others.

On the West Philippine Sea issue, Coloma said, “The President may have felt there is sufficient public awareness on the West Philippine Sea issue, as well as an adequate level of support from the people, including endorsements from leading countries, to the country’s recourse to UN arbitration.” – Rappler.com