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Philippines: Where does the FOI campaign go from here?
Today, we close our people’s campaign for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill in the 15th Congress. We have, to the extent that our capacities and limited resources permitted, exhausted all avenues that we thought were open to us to get positive, decisive action from the leaders of the House of Representatives and from President Aquino no less.
Yet they turned a deaf ear to our summons for leadership. Instead they caved in to their fears of an informed and empowered people. They gave us the lie to their avowed claims of transparency and good governance.
The campaign committed one big error — we had thought, in all earnestness, that the passage of the FOI law in the 15th Congress would have the support of Aquino. Three years ago he had promised he would accord the bill top priority. Our sad lesson: Words are to candidates cheap, and Presidents lie, indeed.
Contrary to giving the FOI Bill priority, Aquino hobbled the campaign from the beginning with his variably petty and serious mutating concerns about the FOI Bill. Our reaction was to address these concerns and to engage his Study Group after it was belatedly created.
When finally he endorsed the work of the Study Group in January 2012, at the height of the Corona impeachment, we had thought the tide had changed. We were wrong again. Nothing would be heard from him since in support of the measure, except, ironically a left-field endorsement of the Right of Reply in a November 2012 speech. This no doubt affirmed and emboldened the obstructionist proponents of a patently unconstitutional Right of Reply rider to the FOI Bill at the House of Representatives.
Taking cue that the measure did not really enjoy Aquino’s full support, the House assured the death of the FOI bill by deliberate inaction. Committee on Public Information Chairman Rep. Ben Evardone, who had jumped ship from the Lakas-Kampi party of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to join Aquino’s Liberal Party, simply delayed and cancelled committee hearings on the bill on and on. When finally the committee members forced the vote to send the bill to plenary, two more Lakas-Kampi turncoats to LP holding the highest positions in the House — Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II — made sure the FOI bill will not get off the ground.
Unto the FOI Bill’s dying days in the last nine session days of Congress, we appealed to President Aquino to certify the passage of the FOI bill as an urgent measure. His response, given through his spokespersons was curt — he wants to see a “healthy debate” on the FOI bill in the House.
It was an insult to say the least. It was as if the President was clueless about how the triumvirate of Evardone, Belmonte, and Gonzales had made sure that absolutely no debate would happen on the FOI Bill whether in committee or in plenary. And rather than taking the trio to task, the President, national chairman of the Liberal Party, even rewarded Evardone for his lackluster work, by installing the latter as a spokesperson of the administration’s hodgepodge of an electoral coalition.
And so the FOI Bill dies again in the 15th Congress under Aquino, as it did under Arroyo. But a startling point of contrast must be made, too. The FOI Bill had advanced even much farther in Arroyo’s time when it came just one step away from signing into law. In Aquino’s time, it did not take off at all in the House.
Where does the FOI campaign go from here?
The people’s movement for FOI will push on anywhere and everywhere, despite or in spite of Aquino and his allies. Rights, after all, are never served on a silver platter. Fight for our rights we must, and we will.
In the 16th Congress we commit to persevere even more. By the power of our own will and by the numbers of our people, we will heighten our demand to get our FOI Act.
We know this to be true: The FOI Bill did not pass in the 15th Congress because Aquino and the House of Representatives failed us. But the success story in our campaign for the FOI Bill’s passage into law is writ large in the ever-growing movement for the passage of the FOI Bill that has united nearly all sectors of Philippine society. They include workers and businessmen, the youth and students, the media, the churches, the civil servants, professors and school officials, migrant workers and their families, and a whole range of civil society organizations across the nation.
They exclude, of course, Aquino, his allies, and politicians of all stripes who seem truly scared that their secrets and shenanigans will be exposed by an empowering transparency tool that an FOI Act will be.
Today we do not bury the FOI Bill. Instead we keep it alive and recommit ourselves to push it in the 16th Congress — despite or in spite of Aquino and his allies. With greater vigor we will keep the FOI bill alive on the streets, across all media platforms, and wherever else local communities can set it in motion, through a more determined push for legislation, and also by practice.
Today we bury instead the legacy of ineptitude of the House of Representatives of the 15th Congress, and the falsity of Aquino’s promise as a candidate that he will see to the immediate passage of the FOI Act. Today, we stop hoping and appealing for Aquino to push the FOI Bill in the 16th Congress. By all indications, he supports reform bills that the donor community, investors, and credit ratings outfits also favor, but on the FOI Bill, he equivocates ceaselessly.
We take this opportunity to thank all the sectors and citizens who championed and stood up for the passage of the FOI in the 14th and 15th Congresses, despite the odds. The Senate, as an institution, has delivered not once, but twice, and there is no reason to doubt that it will again deliver in the 16th Congress.
We make special mention of Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, who made good on his commitment to work for the FOI Bill’s passage in the Senate in the 15th Congress as committee chairman, and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who did the same in the 14th Congress. We note that in both instances that the FOI Bill was passed by the Senate, it was headed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
At the House, while an unresponsive leadership and an indifferent majority killed the FOI bill a second time, a handful stood their ground — Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada of Quezon, Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao, Representatives Walden Bello and Kaka Bag-ao of Akbayan Party List, and Representatives Sherwin Tugna and Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales of CIBAC Party List.
We also note that the 14th Congress’ Committee on Public Information Chairman Benny Abante of Manila has kept alive his advocacy for the FOI bill, in his private capacity. We acknowledge the emerging supporters in the House, such as Rep. Emmeline Aglipay of Diwa Party List, and commit to work with them to expand the group of FOI champions in the 16th Congress.
In the Executive, we thank Justice Secretary Leila De Lima for being the one and only Aquino Cabinet member to publicly stand up for the passage of the FOI Bill in her speech before the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC), a breath of fresh air amid the asphyxiating “it is up to Congress; we want a healthy debate” line of President Aquino and his spokespersons.
The people’s movement for FOI lives on. We will never relent in our efforts to demand an open, honest, accountable, and transparent government that we all deserve.
In time, we will claim our victory.
Nepomuceno Malaluan, Co-Director, Institute for Freedom of Information and Co-Convenor, Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition
Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo, DD, Chairman, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA)
Malou Mangahas, Executive Director, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
Florangel Rosario-Braid, President Emeritus & Senior Adviser, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication
Annie Geron, General Secretary, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)
Josua Mata, Secretary General, Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Clarissa V. Militante, Coordinator, Focus on the Global South, Philippines Programme
Rowena Paraan, Secretary-General, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Vincent Lazatin, Executive Director, Transparency and Accountability Network
Luis Teodoro, Deputy Director, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility
Leonor M. Briones, Lead Covenor, Social Watch Philippines and Chairperson, KAAKBAY Party List
Yuen Abana, Campaign Coordinator, Partido ng Manggagawa
Jun Aguilar, Filipino Migrant Workers Group
Elso Cabangon, Filipino Migrant Workers Group
Ramon R. Tuazon, President, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication
Madeline B. Quiamco, Dean, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication
Alwyn Alburo, Vice Chairman, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
Eirene Jhone Aguila, FOI and New Politics Advocate
Jenina Joy Chavez, Southeast Asia Monitor for Action
Corazon Valdez Fabros, Lead Convenor, Stop the War Coalition Philippines
Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, National Coordinator, WomanHealth Philippines
Isagani R. Serrano, President, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
Gerry Rivera, Pangulo, Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA)
Rolando Ocampo, Spokesperson, Prudentialife Warriors/Movement for Change and Good Governance
Red Batario, Executive Director, Center for Community Journalism and Development
G. Sevilla Alvarez, Program Director, Center for Community Journalism and Development
Mae Paner (Juana Change), Juana Change Movement
Mr. Ernie Ordoñez, Chairperson, Alyansa Agrikultura
Norman Cabrera, Secretary General, Ang Kapatiran Party
Joseph Anthony Lim, Professor, Economics Department, Ateneo De Manila University
Flordeliz L. Abanto, Broadcast Journalism Coordinator, St. Scholastica’s College, Manila
Nicole Curato, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, UP Diliman
Alma Maria O. Salvador, Department of Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University
Carmel Abao, Department of Political Science, Ateneo De Manila University
Marivic Raquiza, Assistant Professor, UP-NCPAG
Joy Aceron, Program Director, Government Watch/ PODER, Ateneo School of Government
Dante G. Simbulan, Jr. Professor, De La Salle Health Science Institute
Anne Lan Candelaria, Department of Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University
Romeo Royandoyan, Centro Saka
Ric Reyes, President, Freedom from Debt Coalition
Lidy Nacpil, Regional Coordinator, Jubilee South – Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS APMMD)
Cielo Magno, Executive Director, Bantay Kita
John Carlos G. de los Reyes, Candidate for Senator (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party
Rizalito Y. David, Candidate for Senator (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party
Joseph Purugganan, Coordinator, EU-ASEAN FTA Network
Carlo Brolagda, Chairperson, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (CSSPSC), UP Diliman and Convenor, FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)
Chris Alquizalas, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (CSSPSC), UP Diliman and Convenor, FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)
Viko Fumar, President, BUKLOD CSSP, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines – Diliman
Joseph Angelo Gutierrez, Chairperson, Movement of Students for Progressive Leadership in UP (MOVE UP), University of the Philippines – Los Baños
Ace Ligsay, Chairperson, UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA), University of the Philippines – Diliman
JC Tejano, National Chairperson, Bukluran ng mga Progresibong Iskolar – UP System (BUKLURAN – UP SYSTEM), University of the Philippines System
Tristan Daine Zinampan, Chairperson, Linking Everyone Towards Service CDC (LETS CDC), College of Development Communication, University of the Philippines – Los Baños
Joshua Lorenzo Layog, Primer, Katipunan CHE, College of Human Ecology, University of the Philippines – Los Baños
April Lamentillo, Supremo, Sandigan ng mga Iskolar para sa Nagkakaisang CAS (SINAG CAS), College of Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines – Los Baños
Deg Daupan, President, Alternatibong Katipunan ng mga Mag-aaral (AKMA), University of the Philippines – Baguio
Joshua Young, Chairperson, Bigkis ng mga Iskolar Para sa Bayan Tungo sa Makabuluhang Pagbabago – UPM (BIGKIS-UPM), University of the Philippines – Manila
Edward Dayog, President, UP Organization of Human Rights Advocates (OHRA), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Mickey Eva, President, Coalition for Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW Coalition)
John Mark Salvador, President, Bagong Benilde, De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde
Curt Russel Lopez Delfin, President, Metro Manila Alliance of Communication Students (MACS)
Marlon Cornelio, National Chaiperson, Akbayan Youth
Melba Tampakan, National Chairperson, Alliance of Progressive Labor – Youth (APL Youth)
Marian Bahalla, Chairperson, Laban COC Party, College of Communication, Polytechnic University of the Philippines
Arjay Mercado, President, UP Economics Towards Consciousness (ETC), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Gio Alejo, President, Sanggunian ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, Ateneo de Manila University
Moses Albiento, Chairperson, Alliance of Student Leaders (ASL), Ateneo de Manila University
Benedict Nisperos, President, Law Student Government (LSG), College of Law, University of the Philippines – Diliman
Walter Tamayo, History Department Representative, AngKAS (CSSP History Department Core Group), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Ernest Calayag, Secretary General, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP)
Nico Ibaviosa, President, UP Alliance for Responsive Involvement and Student Empowerment (ARISE), College of Engineering, University of the Philippines – Diliman
Gibby Gorres, Executive Director, Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN)
Ara Tan, President, UP Kalipunan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Sosyolohiya (KMS), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Serge Aclan, Chairperson, College of Allied Medical Professions Student Council (CAMPSC), University of the Philippines – Manila
Jason Alacapa, Chairperson, University Student Council (UPM USC), University of the Philippines – Manila
Marjorie Anne Yoro, Suprema, UP Kabataang Pilosopo Tasyo (KaPiTas), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Karla Mae de Leon, Suprema, UP Kalipunan para sa Agham Panlipunan at Pilosopiyang Pilipino (UP KAPPP), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Luisa Lioanag, Bos Tsip-Tsip, UP Bukluran sa Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Buklod-Isip), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Patricza Torio, Tagapangulo, UP Lipunang Pangkasaysayan (LIKAS), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Paulina Miranda, Chairperson, College of Education Student Council (CESC), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Joni Dumasig, President, Union of Progressive Students (UPS), University of the Philippines – Cebu
Fred Omalza, President, People United to Lead, Obey, and Serve (PULOS), University of the Philippines – Mindanao
Ema Escanilla, Speaker, UP People-Oriented Leadership in the Interest of Community Awareness (UP POLITICA), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Van Battad, President, UP Sirkulo ng mga Kabataang Artista (SIKAT), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Heart Diño, Chairperson, University Student Council (UPD USC), University of the Philippines – Diliman
Robin Charles Ramos, President, Cor Jesu Association of Graduate Students (CJAGS), Cor Jesu College, Digos City, Davao del Sur
Juan Paulo Oreta Rodriguez, Executive Board / Federation Chairman, Barkadahang San Joseño, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan
Leo Christian Lauzon, Chairperson, Youth Against Debt (YAD) Eastern Visayas
Jennifer Julia Lacaba, President, Animal Concerns and Awareness Club (AC2), University of the Philippines – Visayas Tacloban College
Princess Kimberly Ubay-ubay, President, School of Business and Management Student Council (SBMSC), Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan, Cagayan de Oro City
Frezalva Vir Burce, Program Coordinator / Child Protection Officer, Children International – Child Sponsorship for Community Development Inc. (CSCDI), Tabaco City, Albay
Roy Dahildahil, Chairperson, Partido sang Mainuswagon nga Bumulutho (PMB), University of the Philippines – Visayas, Miagao, Iloilo
Glosuvel Requina, President, Council of Maritime Leaders (CML), University of Cebu – Maritime Education and Training Center, Cebu City
Cedrick Sagun, President, UST Political Science Forum (UST-TPSF), University of Santo Tomas – Manila
Dawn Po Quimque, President, College of Communication Student Council (COC-SC), Polytechnic University of the Philippines
Jonah Elaine Abubakar, President, School of Business and Management (SBM) – Business Economics Society (BES), Universidad de Zamboanga, Zamboanga City
Michael Villamor, President, Supreme Student Government – Northern Cebu Colleges, Bogo City, Cebu
Danise Talaba, President, Team Communication (TeamComm), De La Salle University – Manila
Xander Losaria, OIC / Secretary General, SENTRO – La Salle, De La Salle University – Dasmariñas
Jem Francelle Sanico, Chairperson, Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Alternatibong Reporma at Pagbabago (SAMAR Party), University of Eastern Philippines, Northern Samar
Charisse Marie Catama, Student Regent, University of Eastern Philippines, Northern Samar
Marlon Padua, Vice President for Non-Academics, STI Student Council, STI College – Southwoods, Carmona, Cavite
Anne Lorraine Garcia, Most Idyllic Sister, UP Sigma Beta Sorority, University of the Philippines – Diliman
Jana Cabuhat, President, University Student Government (DLSU USG), De La Salle University – Manila
Allenia Nia Chua, Vice President, Youth Aids Filipinas Alliance (YAFA), University of the Philippines – Visayas Tacloban College
Arisa Bajana, Lord Chancellor, Vox La Salle Debate Society, De La Salle University – Dasmariñas
Renier Louie Bona, Youth Representative, TLF – Sexuality, Health, and Rights Educators (TLF-SHARE) Collective, Inc.
Gab Andres, President, Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (TAPAT), De La Salle University – Manila
Kelvin Tagnipez, Chairperson, School of Economics Student Council (SESC), University of the Philippines – Diliman
John Tobit Cruz, President, Angat Kabataan, Taytay, Rizal
Migs Angeles, Secretary General, Akbayan Youth – UPD, University of the Philippines – Diliman
Khim Joseph Naval, President, Association of Political Science Students, University of Nueva Caceres, Naga City, Camarines Sur
Paolo Martin Saberon, Executive Director, Cebuano Youth Ambassadors
Starjoan Villanueva, Executive Director, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao
Marwil Llasos, Candidate for Senator (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party
Carlos Cabochan, Candidate for Representative, 2nd District of Caloocan City (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party
Harry Tambuatco, Candidate for Representative, Lone district of Muntinlupa city (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party
Edilberto M. Cuenca, Candidate for Representative, 1st District of Makati City (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party
Mr. Frank Reyes, Candidate for Representative, Lone District of Mandaluyong City (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party
Bong Fabe, Freelance journalist
Aurora Regalado, Lead Convenor, Rice Watch and Action Network
Pablo Rosales, Pangulo, Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda (PANGISDA)
Boy Alban, Pangulo, League of Urban Poor for Action (LUPA)
Jun Pascua, National Coordinator, Pambansang Katipunan ng Makabayang Magbubukid (PKMM)
Relito Arisgado, Pangulo, Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Malabon
Elvira Baladad, Samahang 53 nd Macabud
Trinidad Domingo, Spokesperson, Save Agrarian Reform Alliance
Merci Llarinas Angeles, Executive Director, Peace Women Partners
Arvin A. Jo, Focal Person, The Access Initiative (TAI)-Philippines
Baibonn D. Sangid, Former Chairperson, Young Moro Professionals Network
Gloria Santos, President, Kilusan at Ugnayan ng Maralitang Pasigueño (KUMPAS)
Janel Pesons, Secretary General, Mindanao People’s Peace Movement (MPPM)
Roy Jerusalem Cabonegro, Secretary General, GREENS PH (Philippine Green Party/ Partido Kalikasan) and Executive Director, Partido.Kalikasan (Greens PH) Institute Inc.
Ren Bondad, Sanlakas Youth
Alex Castro, KAISA-UP Diliman
Ronald Salas, Social Action Center, Maasin, Southern Leyte
Rafaela David, Good Governance Advocate
Hermie Oraya, Provincial Coordinator, Youth for Rights, Eastern Samar
Ronald Allan Barnacha, Chairperson, PRRM Nueva Viscaya
Roldan Gonzales, Executive Director, Gitib
Datu Jimboy Catawanan, President, SOLED-Ki
Chadwick Llanos, Focal Person, Cebu Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Environment
Grace Villanueva, Executive Director, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC)
Mai Taqueban, Deputy Director for Research and Policy Development, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC)
Manjette Lopez, President, Sanlakas Party List
Rasti Delizo, Alliance Coordinator, Sanlakas Party List
Philip Adula, Coordinator, Sanlakas, Eastern Samar
Jefferson Agaloos, Chairperson, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Youth Association
Evelyn Lacambra, President, CLAIM Lallo
Tanie S. Suaño, Executive Director, Convergence of NGOs/POs in ZAmboanga del Sur on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development
Carmencita Andoy, Environmental Awareness Team, Misamis Occidental
Mary Ann V. Fuertes, Executive Director, Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), Davao City
Strauss Fernandez, Executive Secretary, RECON Philippines
Jean Enriquez, Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific
Benito Molino, Chairperson, Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS-Zambales)
Jose Melvin Lamanilao, Executive Director, Paglilingkod Batas Pangkapatiran Foundation, Inc.
Jaybee Garganera, Coordinator, Alyansa Tigil Mina