IN THE END, it will be a waiting game.
With FOI advocates rattling the gates of Malacanang for a Presidential certification of the Freedom of Information bill as urgent, Presidential Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said the Palace can make no commitments on the pending bill in Congress.
Quezon met a delegation from the Right to Know Right Now! Coalition that marched to Mendiola bridge to press the President to make a stronger push for the passage of the measure. The coalition is asking for a Presidential certification of the measure as urgent to save the bill from dying from inaction in the 15th Congress. There are only six more session days left before Congressmen go on an extended election campaign break on Feb. 8.
The delegation told Quezon that the President could make the measure move faster in the lower chamber if only he asks his allies in Congress to give it priority.
Quezon for his part said that the President had already been informed by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte that he had asked all Congressmen to attend the remaining session days so that pending bills could still be passed.
However, delegation members pointed out that it was in fact this failure of Congressmen to attend sessions that imperiled the FOI to begin with. Congress practically wasted two session days last week when Davao Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV threatened to question the presence of a quorum on the floor in his bid to block a law creating the new province of Davao Occidental. Barely fifty Congressmen were in attendance during the session last week.
In fact, FOI proponents in Congress conceded that the bill could have stood a fighting chance of passing in Congress if only there were enough legislators in attendance to render Cagas’ threat moot and academic.
Quezon assured the delegation that he will bring the matter up with the President himself. Right to Know Right Now lead convenor Nepomuceno Malaluan told Quezon that the coalition will wait for the President’s response.