MANILA, July 28, 2015 -– In what was President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s longest State of the Nation Address, which ran more than two hours long on July 27, he urged the passage of several specific legislations but glaringly failed to mention the much-awaited Freedom of Information (FOI) bill as a priority of his administration.
While Aquino called on lawmakers to see to it that his pet project the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) gets passed as well as the unified, uniformed personal pension reform bill, the 2016 National budget, and the long delayed Anti-(Political) Dynasty bill, he was mum on the subject of the FOI bill which was one of his campaign promises.
His failure to include the Freedom of Information Bill drew negative reactions from the academe and Catholic priests. U.P. College of Mass Communications Dean Luis V. Teodoro said it was intentional.
“President Aquino did not mention it because he is against it,” Dean Teodoro said in a text message to CBCP News.
Fr. Benito Tuazon, a regular anchorman at Catholic-run Radio Veritas said Aquino “deliberately sidestepped, ignored, or forgot about it. He added “as to the campaign promise (he made), he knew he can get away with it.”
Meanwhile, Caritas Manila’s executive director Fr. Antonio Pascual said it is all part of politics of compromise “just like the anti-dynasty measure which may bring some good feelings but won’t materialize, too.”
Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP – Public Affairs Office, said had Aquino mentioned FOI as one of his priority measures, it would have solidified the people’s trust in his “Daang Matuwid.”
With allegations of corruption heaped upon his administration, Secillano said: “[Aquino] fell short of assuring the Filipinos that he is dead serious in stopping thievery in the different institutions of government. It is not enough that he himself is not a thief as many people perhaps believed, but he owes it to the Filipinos to have a sense of transparency in order to unmask those who are pilfering our country’s resources.”
Still, Secillano believes it was more of a deliberate omission not to include FOI in his speech “because perhaps many of his trusted lieutenants will be pinned down by it.”
While the president enumerated his achievements from basic to tertiary and vocational education, the reduction of the number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), and the increase in government revenue, notably, he continued to cite the alleged pitfalls of the his predecessor President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who now remains in hospital detention. He enumerated the controversies from the publicized fertilizer scan, the NBN-ZTE controversy, and the “Hello Garci” scandal which ended with the famous “I’m sorry” sound byte.
Speaking in Filipino, President Aquino said the country has gone a long way since reforms were introduced from the start of his term in June 30, 2010.
President Aquino’s speech was interspersed with video clips from individuals who praised the administrations’ good governance. (Melo Acuña/CBCPNews)