FOI’s death ‘scripted’; Aquino urged to prioritize bill

First published at the Philippine Online Chronicles

Authors of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill alleged that Malacanang and its House allies were merely acting out their parts in a “play” in last Friday’s killing of the bill that sparked outrage from some lawmakers and media groups, GMANews.tv reported.

Reps. Bienvenido Abante Jr. of Manila and Lorenza Tanada III of Quezon, principal sponsors of the FOI bill, said that the 14th Congress’ failure to ratify the bill due to lack of quorum was “scripted.”

Only 128 lawmakers were present in last Friday’s session, seven House members short of the 135 needed to get a quorum.

GMANews.tv’s list of absent lawmakers during the roll call for the approval of the FOI bill included President Gloria Arroyo’s son and relatives. They are presidential son Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, Rep. Diosdado Arroyo, Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, and Rep. Maria Lourdes T. Arroyo.

But House Speaker Prospero Nograles, who presided over the 14th Congress’ last session, denied the allegation in a Sunstar.com report. “Why are they like that? As far as I am concerned, I did my best to convince congressmen to show up for the session,” he said.

Nograles earlier announced that Congress would convene in its final session June 4 to tackle ratification of the FOI bill.

Tanada questioned why House Speaker Nograles did not make an effort to gather all legislators inside the plenary hall last Friday. He said there were more than 140 lawmakers inside the hall before the session started, which was more than the 135 needed to get a quorum.

Tanada also suspected there might be a connection between the non-ratification of the FOI Bill and the failure of the Right of Reply Bill (RORB) in the House. He said some lawmakers wanted to have “these two bills in conjunction” and that ratifying both “could strike a balance.”

While the FOI bill would give the public easier access to government documents and transactions, RORB would give politicians the right to have their statements on certain issues published by the media.

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