In the next fortnight on July 23, President Benigno S. Aquino III will deliver the state-of-the-nation address (SONA), his third as chief executive.
For the third time in as many years, too, the 160 organizations and civil society leaders that compose the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, have submitted to the President an earnest appeal: Remember the Freedom of Information bill, and give it a vigorous push in the SONA!
In January 2012, in fact, the President himself had endorsed an administration version of the FOI, albeit in a press statement only.
Yet while the Senate has moved quickly to pass its version of the FOI bill soon after the impeachment trial and conviction of then chief justice Renato C. Corona, the FOI bill remains stuck in limbo at the committee on public information of the House of Representatives. The committee’s chairperson, Rep. Ben Evardone, a former journalist, and the House majority coalition led by the President’s Liberal Party allies, have largely ignored Mr. Aquino’s administration measure.
The House has conducted only two committee hearings on the FOI — a bill that has been filed and refiled since the 12th Congress or in the last 14 years. But time is running short for the House to enact reform legislation such as the FOI bill because the campaign for the May 2013 elections will soon commence with the filing of certificates of candidacy in October 2012.
On behalf of the Coalition, we would like to share with you a letter to the President and a press statement that the Coalition members delivered yesterday at a meeting in Malacanang with Press Undersecretary Manuel “Manolo” L. Quezon III.