‘Focus on FOI bill, not impeachment’

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Monday, September 1, 2014


LAWYER Enrique Tabino said Congress should focus on passing the Freedom of Information Bill instead of prioritizing the impeachment complaints against President Benigno Aquino III.

Tabino, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Negros Occidental Chapter, said he believes the impeachment complaints against Aquino will not prosper.

He said that an impeachment proceedings is a numbers game and definitely the President enjoys the support of the majority.

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Even the opposition has issued statements that they won't vote for the impeachment, he added.

On September 2, Tuesday, the House committee on justice will decide whether the impeachment complaints against the President both have form and substance.

Last week, the committee voted to declare as sufficient in form the three verified impeachment complaints.

The first impeachment complaint accuses Aquino of violating the Constitution through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

The second impeachment case accused Aquino of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and graft and corruption over the DAP while the third accuses Aquino of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust for agreeing to sign the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the government of the United States.

Tabino said the impeachment complaints are weak considering that the basis and issues raised are about the DAP, Edca, and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The fourth impeachment filed by Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT Teachers) involves the alleged continuance of the pork barrel system in the proposed 2015 national budget.

The ACT Teachers accuses Aquino of betrayal of public trust by perpetuating "congressional pork" through informal practices in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling that declared the PDAF of members of Congress as unconstitutional.

Tabino said that instead of devoting time to the impeachment complaints, Congress should give priority to the passage of the FOI Bill because it is relevant to the present situation.

It’s the way for people know what is happening in government and how our elected officials perform their respective duties in government, Tabino said.

Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on people's public information and mass media, had earlier said she is optimistic that the House of Representatives will pass the FOI Bill under the term of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

Senate passed on third and final reading the FOI Bill or Senate Bill 1733 in March yet.

The FOI Bill seeks to give the public the right to request and be granted access to records or information that is under the control of government unless the information requested would jeopardize national security.

"FOI is very simple. It will give the people arms to ask for documents from the government such as biddings and projects," Poe said.

The senator added that studies showed that graft and corruption were minimized in countries with strong FOI law.

In July, the President vowed to support the FOI Bill during a Daylight Dialogue with World Bank representatives and the business sector.

Aquino, however, said he cannot certify the bill as urgent "because the Constitution requires an emergency" for such action.

"But the assurance I think should be given at this point that it will be passed before the end of my term," the President said.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 01, 2014.

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