By AIZA LIZA NAMINGIT with NORDIS REPORTS
QUEZON CITY — Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat has complained that Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone is holding the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill hostage in his committee, thus preventing Congress from contributing significantly to the government’s campaign against corruption.
According to Baguilat, what would define the 15th Congress in terms of wisdom, guts and will aside from the Reproductive Health bill is the FOI, which he said was dragging through the legislative process because of the delaying tactics of Evardone, who chairs the House Committee on Public Information.
Baguilat said that Evardone has postponed and delayed committee deliberations over the past two years where the latest is the August 7 meeting agreed upon with the author. “This despite his coming out previously in media saying that he is pushing for the passage of the FOI bill. By his action, he seems not,” said Baguilat, who is a member of the committee.
“ Is he truly for FOI or is he allowing himself to be used by former allies in the past administration to torpedo the bill, just like what they did in the 14th congress?,” added Baguilat.
Baguilat said that the passage of the FOI bill would contribute greatly to the campaign against corruption of the Aquino administration as, among others, this would give concerned citizens access to vital information that they will need to make sure that government officials are held accountable.
Yet despite the importance of the bill to the ‘tuwid na daan’ mission, Baguilat said that Everdone was not doing enough to push it through.
“Everdone says that Malacañang is not sending clear signals. Do all bills have to get Malacanang clearance for them to get through the legislative process? And besides, the president has already expressed his support for the FOI. Malacanang has even given its inputs which several authors are willing to incorporate,ÿh said Baguilat.
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) in its previous statement said that the Aquino administration is not really committed in pursuing and passing the bill. The media organization said this as President Benigno Aquino III failed to mention the FOI bill during his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July.
“He declares himself (Evardone) a champion for FOI. But every time colleagues ask him, he says it is difficult because many Congressmen are against the bill. This is unfair for me and the more than a hundred representatives who have already signed a manifesto pushing for the bill’s passage. Why not allow the representatives to make their positions be heard in the plenary?”
“How can the representatives in Congress talk about a bill in a caucus when it has not even been presented in the plenary? There is no need for a caucus until it is reported out of the committee and this has not been done. Urgent steps now have to be taken if we are to fulfill our mandate to the people,” said Baguilat.#Aiza Liza Namingit with Nordis reports