Palace: Let Congress debate on FOI bill
MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang on Tuesday distanced itself from the calls of civil society groups to certify the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill as urgent amid mounting protests over the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds by some lawmakers.
“It’s being debated in Congress because it’s a concern for all people,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters in a briefing. Lacierda refused to confirm if the government would make sure that the measure will be passed by both houses of Congress, or will be archived again.
He lamented that Filipinos overlooked the reforms the administration has implemented for the last three years, such as the uploading of information on government websites in order to be transparent.
“The fact that we gave you answers and let you know immediately what these information are, is something that people tend to overlook,” he said as he reiterated that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has been abolished although the P200-million allocation for senators and P70 million for congressmen still exist in the national budget.
In effect, Lacierda was saying that PDAF has been done away with but its contents, or the yearly allocation for legislators, still exist but will be subjected to stringent measures and covered by seven specific safeguards.
If PDAF will be totally scrapped, safeguards are no longer necessary.
At this point, there is no FOI law yet.
“We are going to make this transparent. It’s no longer PDAF, or lump sum. We have made it transparent as a line item so everything will be out,” he said.
‘Not urgent in 2012’
Last December, Malacañang did not certify as urgent the Congress-approved FOI bill. “At this point, we have no plans to certify this as urgent,” Secretary Ricky Carandang told journalists as he repeated his boss’ line that he would only certify as urgent measures that are of national importance. According to him, this is “because there’s a process that (the bill) has to go through.”
“He doesn’t certify many bills as urgent and there’s a process that we need to follow,” Carandang said. “Debates are ongoing in the House. There are good arguments for and against the FOI. Congress needs time to reach a consensus,” he added.