MANILA, Sept. 25, 2012— President Benigno Aquino III’s much-vaunted ‘straight path’ campaign would remain a slogan if the government would not pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.
In a statement, the social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines wondered why Aquino has not certified the FOI as an urgent measure if only to eliminate corruption in the government.
According to the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action – Justice and Peace (Nassa), the measure adheres to the principle of transparency and accountability.
“It is an important component to appropriately ensure the flagship governmental advocacy on ‘Matuwid na Daan’ (straight path),” said Nassa national director Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo.
“Unless the President sees the urgent need to pass the FOI bill, his campaign (for a straight path of governance) is only a slogan, and has no firm basis,” he said.
In the Nassa statement, the church agency also urged Aquino to exert more effort and influence on his allies in Congress to ensure the immediate passage of the bill.
“We urge Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. to immediately direct their respective chairpersons of the Committee on Public Information to conduct committee hearings on the said bill,” said Pabillo.
He added that both Houses of Congress should deliberate and decide on the bill before the 15th Congress ends.
Malacañang, however, responded that the passage of the FOI bill already lies in the hands of the Congress.
Pabillo also emphasized that lack of access to information “systematically subjects” the marginalize sectors “to become vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation by bad elements in the society.”
“Without access to information, these sectors as well as other sectors in the Philippine society gain no knowledge as to what government plans. They would be unaware of the projects and contracts the national and local governments make for them,” he said.
“The passage and enforcement of the FOI would be a great service to the people; it empowers people with a new tool of information, especially the poor; it promotes social justice by giving the opportunity for social auditing of previously inaccessible public information, all geared towards the pursuit of common good,” added Pabillo.
It is high time, the Nassa said, for the passage of the bill, which has been discussed and debated for the last 14 years, if Malacañang is serious in its anti-corruption drive.
“Why is Malacañang not following-up the calling of hearings if there is nothing to fear about the legislation?” Pabillo asked. [CBCPNews]