4 June 2010
When the leaders of the House of Representatives want a measure passed, we have seen them find a way. But when they want a measure aborted, they simply stay away and quibble about the absence of quorum.
For 14 years, the 160 member-organizations of the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition have waged, separately and together, an advocacy campaign for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act. We have done so in good faith, in the most positive and trustful manner, and with all due respect to the members of Congress who swore to serve the people, by the Constitution and the laws of the land.
Even now, we thank Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr., the legislators who authored and passed the Freedom of Information Act, and all the members of the 14th Congress, for taking the bill to its farthest, an accomplishment that previous Congresses had all failed to achieve.
Today, the Freedom of Information Act hangs on the precipice, and the leaders of the House, on the threshold of either making history or being cast aside to its dustbin.
In the last two weeks, the people have been offered promise after promise to ratify the Fredom of Information Act.
On February 2, 2010, copies of the Bicameral Conference Committee Report on the FOI scheduled for distribution to the House members suddenly went missing at the session hall
On February 3, the House Floorleader, after moving to defer the calling of the roll, proceeded to secure the House members’ concurrence vote for no less than 15 Senate bills, and one conference committee report. However, the FOI conference committee report was conveniently left out. A congressman who sought a copy of the FOI Act was told by House officials that the instruction from the office of the House Secretary General was to “hold distribution” of the copies that day, the last day before the Congress adjourned for the election campaign season.
On May 24, the House leadership implored proponents of the bill to withdraw their motion to ratify the conference committee report after the Speaker and the Majority and Minority leaders declared their commitment to enroll it on the agenda of the House on May 31.
But on May 31, Speaker Nograles opened the session and the Majority Floorleader moved to suspend session until June 4, for the closing of the 14th Congress. In 10 seconds flat, they opened and closed the session, ignoring motions from proponents of the bill to ratify the FOI Act. The proponents led by Manila Rep. Bienvenido M. Abante Jr., chair of the House committee on public information, had wanted to raise a point of order but the House leaders simply ignored them. In truth, the proponents were muzzled and gagged – the microphones on the floor were turned off.