FOI bill still not included in the list of priority bills

The controversial Freedom on Information (FOI) Bill failed again to make the list of priority bills during the second Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) meeting led by President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday.

But Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda clarified that the President just wants more time to elaborate the FOI bill.

“This is not the last chance we’ve got to prioritize the bill. We still have four years and nine months to go. There will be several Ledac meetings,” spokesman Lacierda pointed as quoted by interaksyon.

Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño’s earlier statement that the second Ledac meeting will be the last chance of President Aquino to redeem himself by prioritizing the bill and to ensure its passage into law.

“We have certain concerns — valid concerns raised by the President himself. But it is not dead in the water. We agree with the FOI in principle but there are certain concerns that have to be addressed. We agree in principle that the FOI bill must be passed,” Lacierda added on the same report.

The Palace version of the FOI Bill provides the formation of an independent Information Commission that would be the mediator between the government and any parties who have queries concerning the bill’s implementation.

Rep. Casiño, author of the FOI bill, said on Monday that the House Committee on Public Information has postponed its discussion and even “watered down” the bill just to make way for President’s concerns, yet he has failed to include the Freedom on Information bill on his priority measures.

“If the Ledac fails to include the FOI bill as a priority, then forget about the matuwid na daan. It will confirm the suspicion of many that transparency and accountability is only being applied to the previous administration and that the President would rather continue the practice of withholding vital information from the public,” Casiño said as quoted by a report on sunstar.

Last Sunday, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte confirmed that the FOI Bill along with Reproductive Health (RH) Bill were discussed during the full cabinet meeting presided by President Aquino on Friday in preparation for the Ledac meeting. The final list remained unclosed until today.

The FOI bill and RH bill both failed to make the cut for the first Ledac meeting held last February 28. Both bills have been pending in congress for quite some time now.