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Netizens urged to pressure Aquino, House on FOI bill

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Wednesday called on netizens to exert “sufficient, educated public pressure” on President Aquino and the House of Representatives to fast-track the freedom of information (FOI) bill.

Santiago expressed disappointment over President Aquino’s decision not to certify as urgent the FOI bill, adding that the measure’s chances of being passed by the House of Representatives—dominated by the President’s allies—was already slim.

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“I hope the netizens can exert sufficient educated public pressure on all these entities to shake a leg and pass the FOI bill because this has been passed in several other countries,” she said.

Santiago said she felt bad about the President’s decision “because I worked very hard with Sen. Grace Poe and some of my major amendments have been adopted, notably my amendment that the total income, taxable or not, of high government officials like senators and congressmen should be available on the Internet.”

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Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public information and sponsor of the FOI bill, said there was no reason for House members to oppose the measure if they believed their office could be scrutinized by the public.

“The certification of a bill is a presidential prerogative. I believe though that with or without it, the FOI bill is one piece of important legislation whose time has come,” Poe told the Inquirer.

A Cebu-based press council, meanwhile, described as “double talk” Malacañang’s claim that the President didn’t renege on his campaign promise to work for the passage of the FOI bill.

“To say that he already fulfilled the commitment ‘in actual government service and he is one with the people in support of the bill’ can only be seen as double talk,” said Pachico Seares, executive director of the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC).

“We hope the President will be candid on the issue of transparency that the FOI bill seeks to promote,” he added.

Seares issued the statement the day after Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told reporters that President Aquino didn’t renege on his campaign promise to push for the passage of the FOI bill since “the commitment has already been fulfilled in actual government service” even in the absence of an FOI law.

Seares recalled that the President had used his clout to have the House impeach then chief justice Renato Corona and pass the reproductive health bill.

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Yet, Aquino would not lift a finger to have the FOI bill passed, the CCPC official added.

The 15-member CCPC is a nonprofit organization, which aims to defend press freedom, promote media professionalism and help shape public opinion.

It gathers top editors of Cebu’s five newspapers, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, and private sector representatives of business, the academe, law and the church.—With a report from Connie E. Fernandez

TOPICS: FOI bill, freedom of information, Internet, netizens
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