R2KRN STATEMENT: Speaker’s support for FOI mere lip service
AT AROUND the time that the Senate approved the FOI bill on Third Reading in March 2014, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte boldly proclaimed: “Ang ipinangako ko talaga is during the 16th Congress. Bitayin ninyo ako kung matapos ito at hindi pa nakakapasa.” (“Belmonte renews vow: FOI bill to pass in 16th Congress“, March 11, 2014)
Yet on the ground the Speaker has not lifted a finger to give FOI a positive push. The bill has advanced at the committee level through the efforts of the committee chair, house champions and FOI advocates, at times even with counter-signals from the House leadership.
One clear evidence of the Speaker’s lack of actual commitment to advancing the FOI bill was his failure to put the FOI on the agenda, even for just its sponsorship in plenary, before Congress went to recess last June. This despite the Committee chair and authors expressing readiness for the bill’s sponsorship and defense, and a letter of appeal from advocates.
The Speaker, under the rules, is the political and administrative head of the House of Representatives. He is responsible for the overall management of the proceedings of the House. He is primarily responsible for preparing the legislative agenda for every regular session, with the view of ensuring the full deliberation and swift approval especially of priority measures.
With the Speaker only paying lip service to FOI, the FOI Tracker rating goes down to 25. It will just be a matter of time for his chief enforcer, Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, to drive the final nail in the coffin of the FOI bill in the 16th Congress. (“‘Slim chance for FOI, anti-political dynasty, Cha-Cha bills’ passage’“, July 19, 2015)
When all excuses are said and done, we see the House of Belmonte no different from the House of Nograles on FOI.
- Commentary: 2015 will be a reckoning of promises on FOI
- BT: Freedom of Information bill, nakabinbin pa rin sa Kongreso