Lawmakers laud Aquino for pushing FOI bill

LEGISLATORS lauded President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday for pushing for the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill before his term ends next year.

In his 2016 national budget message to Congress, the President urged lawmakers to pass the bill "to ensure the permanency of transparency policies."

“Finally! This will be the instrument to attain genuine reforms and continue the fight against graft and corruption,” opposition Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito told Sun.Star.

Senators Grace Poe and Juan Edgardo Angara said the President’s endorsement would help galvanize support for the bill's passage in the House of Representatives.

The Senate passed its own version in March last year.

Poe, however, viewed the President's endorsement with “guarded optimism."

“We are delighted but we should not give up reminding (lawmakers) that we have to continuously work on it in Congress,” said Poe, chairman of the Senate committee on public information and mass media.

“Now, it is up to the Congress if they will pass it,” she added.

Some groups feel pessimistic about its passage in the House because it has taken a backseat to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which aims to end decades of conflict in Mindanao.

u201cIt is up to us then, to prove them wrong. For it is in having the freedom of information that we can build a culture of transparency and accountability among us as a nation, and good governance is working at its best,” Deputy Speaker Henedina Abad said.

Poe's House counterpart, Misamis Occidental Representative Jorge Almonte, said Aquino's support to the FOI is "equally important as the State of the Nation Address."

The proposed FOI Act seeks to mandate the disclosure of public documents. It also outlines the exceptions for public disclosure and the procedures for accessing public documents.

The President was criticized when in his final Sona on Monday, he did not include the FOI bill on the list of the measures that he wanted Congress to pass.

But Senate and House leaders earlier assured the bill is among the six priority measures for the remainder of the 16th Congress. (Sunnex)

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