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Philippines: Where does the FOI campaign go from here?

Today, we close our people's campaign for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill in the 15th Congress. We have, to the extent that our capacities and limited resources permitted, exhausted all avenues that we thought were open to us to get positive, decisive action from the leaders of the House of Representatives and from President Aquino no less.
Yet they turned a deaf ear to our summons for leadership. Instead they caved in to their fears of an informed and empowered people. They gave us the lie to their avowed claims of transparency and good governance.

The campaign committed one big error — we had thought, in all earnestness, that the passage of the FOI law in the 15th Congress would have the support of Aquino. Three years ago he had promised he would accord the bill top priority. Our sad lesson: Words are to candidates cheap, and Presidents lie, indeed.

Contrary to giving the FOI Bill priority, Aquino hobbled the campaign from the beginning with his variably petty and serious mutating concerns about the FOI Bill. Our reaction was to address these concerns and to engage his Study Group after it was belatedly created.

When finally he endorsed the work of the Study Group in January 2012, at the height of the Corona impeachment, we had thought the tide had changed. We were wrong again. Nothing would be heard from him since in support of the measure, except, ironically a left-field endorsement of the Right of Reply in a November 2012 speech. This no doubt affirmed and emboldened the obstructionist proponents of a patently unconstitutional Right of Reply rider to the FOI Bill at the House of Representatives.

Taking cue that the measure did not really enjoy Aquino's full support, the House assured the death of the FOI bill by deliberate inaction. Committee on Public Information Chairman Rep. Ben Evardone, who had jumped ship from the Lakas-Kampi party of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to join Aquino's Liberal Party, simply delayed and cancelled committee hearings on the bill on and on. When finally the committee members forced the vote to send the bill to plenary, two more Lakas-Kampi turncoats to LP holding the highest positions in the House — Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II — made sure the FOI bill will not get off the ground.

Unto the FOI Bill's dying days in the last nine session days of Congress, we appealed to President Aquino to certify the passage of the FOI bill as an urgent measure. His response, given through his spokespersons was curt — he wants to see a "healthy debate" on the FOI bill in the House.

It was an insult to say the least. It was as if the President was clueless about how the triumvirate of Evardone, Belmonte, and Gonzales had made sure that absolutely no debate would happen on the FOI Bill whether in committee or in plenary. And rather than taking the trio to task, the President, national chairman of the Liberal Party, even rewarded Evardone for his lackluster work, by installing the latter as a spokesperson of the administration's hodgepodge of an electoral coalition.

And so the FOI Bill dies again in the 15th Congress under Aquino, as it did under Arroyo. But a startling point of contrast must be made, too. The FOI Bill had advanced even much farther in Arroyo's time when it came just one step away from signing into law. In Aquino's time, it did not take off at all in the House.

Where does the FOI campaign go from here?

The people's movement for FOI will push on anywhere and everywhere, despite or in spite of Aquino and his allies. Rights, after all, are never served on a silver platter. Fight for our rights we must, and we will.

In the 16th Congress we commit to persevere even more. By the power of our own will and by the numbers of our people, we will heighten our demand to get our FOI Act.

We know this to be true: The FOI Bill did not pass in the 15th Congress because Aquino and the House of Representatives failed us. But the success story in our campaign for the FOI Bill's passage into law is writ large in the ever-growing movement for the passage of the FOI Bill that has united nearly all sectors of Philippine society. They include workers and businessmen, the youth and students, the media, the churches, the civil servants, professors and school officials, migrant workers and their families, and a whole range of civil society organizations across the nation.

They exclude, of course, Aquino, his allies, and politicians of all stripes who seem truly scared that their secrets and shenanigans will be exposed by an empowering transparency tool that an FOI Act will be.

Today we do not bury the FOI Bill. Instead we keep it alive and recommit ourselves to push it in the 16th Congress — despite or in spite of Aquino and his allies. With greater vigor we will keep the FOI bill alive on the streets, across all media platforms, and wherever else local communities can set it in motion, through a more determined push for legislation, and also by practice.

Today we bury instead the legacy of ineptitude of the House of Representatives of the 15th Congress, and the falsity of Aquino's promise as a candidate that he will see to the immediate passage of the FOI Act. Today, we stop hoping and appealing for Aquino to push the FOI Bill in the 16th Congress. By all indications, he supports reform bills that the donor community, investors, and credit ratings outfits also favor, but on the FOI Bill, he equivocates ceaselessly.

We take this opportunity to thank all the sectors and citizens who championed and stood up for the passage of the FOI in the 14th and 15th Congresses, despite the odds. The Senate, as an institution, has delivered not once, but twice, and there is no reason to doubt that it will again deliver in the 16th Congress.

We make special mention of Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, who made good on his commitment to work for the FOI Bill's passage in the Senate in the 15th Congress as committee chairman, and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who did the same in the 14th Congress. We note that in both instances that the FOI Bill was passed by the Senate, it was headed by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

At the House, while an unresponsive leadership and an indifferent majority killed the FOI bill a second time, a handful stood their ground — Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada of Quezon, Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao, Representatives Walden Bello and Kaka Bag-ao of Akbayan Party List, and Representatives Sherwin Tugna and Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales of CIBAC Party List.

We also note that the 14th Congress' Committee on Public Information Chairman Benny Abante of Manila has kept alive his advocacy for the FOI bill, in his private capacity. We acknowledge the emerging supporters in the House, such as Rep. Emmeline Aglipay of Diwa Party List, and commit to work with them to expand the group of FOI champions in the 16th Congress.

In the Executive, we thank Justice Secretary Leila De Lima for being the one and only Aquino Cabinet member to publicly stand up for the passage of the FOI Bill in her speech before the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC), a breath of fresh air amid the asphyxiating "it is up to Congress; we want a healthy debate" line of President Aquino and his spokespersons.

The people's movement for FOI lives on. We will never relent in our efforts to demand an open, honest, accountable, and transparent government that we all deserve.

In time, we will claim our victory.

Signed:

Nepomuceno Malaluan, Co-Director, Institute for Freedom of Information and Co-Convenor, Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition

Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo, DD, Chairman, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines - National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA)

Malou Mangahas, Executive Director, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Florangel Rosario-Braid, President Emeritus & Senior Adviser, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication

Annie Geron, General Secretary, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK)

Josua Mata, Secretary General, Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)

Clarissa V. Militante, Coordinator, Focus on the Global South, Philippines Programme

Rowena Paraan, Secretary-General, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

Vincent Lazatin, Executive Director, Transparency and Accountability Network

Luis Teodoro, Deputy Director, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility

Leonor M. Briones, Lead Covenor, Social Watch Philippines and Chairperson, KAAKBAY Party List

Yuen Abana, Campaign Coordinator, Partido ng Manggagawa

Jun Aguilar, Filipino Migrant Workers Group

Elso Cabangon, Filipino Migrant Workers Group

Ramon R. Tuazon, President, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication

Madeline B. Quiamco, Dean, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication

Alwyn Alburo, Vice Chairman, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines

Eirene Jhone Aguila, FOI and New Politics Advocate

Jenina Joy Chavez, Southeast Asia Monitor for Action

Corazon Valdez Fabros, Lead Convenor, Stop the War Coalition Philippines

Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, National Coordinator, WomanHealth Philippines

Isagani R. Serrano, President, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement

Gerry Rivera, Pangulo, Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA)

Rolando Ocampo, Spokesperson, Prudentialife Warriors/Movement for Change and Good Governance

Red Batario, Executive Director, Center for Community Journalism and Development

G. Sevilla Alvarez, Program Director, Center for Community Journalism and Development

Mae Paner (Juana Change), Juana Change Movement

Mr. Ernie Ordoñez, Chairperson, Alyansa Agrikultura

Norman Cabrera, Secretary General, Ang Kapatiran Party

Joseph Anthony Lim, Professor, Economics Department, Ateneo De Manila University

Flordeliz L. Abanto, Broadcast Journalism Coordinator, St. Scholastica's College, Manila

Nicole Curato, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, UP Diliman

Alma Maria O. Salvador, Department of Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University

Carmel Abao, Department of Political Science, Ateneo De Manila University

Marivic Raquiza, Assistant Professor, UP-NCPAG

Joy Aceron, Program Director, Government Watch/ PODER, Ateneo School of Government

Dante G. Simbulan, Jr. Professor, De La Salle Health Science Institute

Anne Lan Candelaria, Department of Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University

Romeo Royandoyan, Centro Saka

Ric Reyes, President, Freedom from Debt Coalition

Lidy Nacpil, Regional Coordinator, Jubilee South - Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS APMMD)

Cielo Magno, Executive Director, Bantay Kita

John Carlos G. de los Reyes, Candidate for Senator (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party

Rizalito Y. David, Candidate for Senator (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party

Joseph Purugganan, Coordinator, EU-ASEAN FTA Network

Carlo Brolagda, Chairperson, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (CSSPSC), UP Diliman and Convenor, FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)

Chris Alquizalas, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy Student Council (CSSPSC), UP Diliman and Convenor, FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)

Viko Fumar, President, BUKLOD CSSP, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines - Diliman

Joseph Angelo Gutierrez, Chairperson, Movement of Students for Progressive Leadership in UP (MOVE UP), University of the Philippines - Los Baños

Ace Ligsay, Chairperson, UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA), University of the Philippines - Diliman

JC Tejano, National Chairperson, Bukluran ng mga Progresibong Iskolar - UP System (BUKLURAN - UP SYSTEM), University of the Philippines System

Tristan Daine Zinampan, Chairperson, Linking Everyone Towards Service CDC (LETS CDC), College of Development Communication, University of the Philippines - Los Baños

Joshua Lorenzo Layog, Primer, Katipunan CHE, College of Human Ecology, University of the Philippines - Los Baños

April Lamentillo, Supremo, Sandigan ng mga Iskolar para sa Nagkakaisang CAS (SINAG CAS), College of Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines - Los Baños

Deg Daupan, President, Alternatibong Katipunan ng mga Mag-aaral (AKMA), University of the Philippines - Baguio

Joshua Young, Chairperson, Bigkis ng mga Iskolar Para sa Bayan Tungo sa Makabuluhang Pagbabago - UPM (BIGKIS-UPM), University of the Philippines - Manila

Edward Dayog, President, UP Organization of Human Rights Advocates (OHRA), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Mickey Eva, President, Coalition for Students' Rights and Welfare (STRAW Coalition)

John Mark Salvador, President, Bagong Benilde, De La Salle - College of Saint Benilde

Curt Russel Lopez Delfin, President, Metro Manila Alliance of Communication Students (MACS)

Marlon Cornelio, National Chaiperson, Akbayan Youth

Melba Tampakan, National Chairperson, Alliance of Progressive Labor - Youth (APL Youth)

Marian Bahalla, Chairperson, Laban COC Party, College of Communication, Polytechnic University of the Philippines

Arjay Mercado, President, UP Economics Towards Consciousness (ETC), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Gio Alejo, President, Sanggunian ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, Ateneo de Manila University

Moses Albiento, Chairperson, Alliance of Student Leaders (ASL), Ateneo de Manila University

Benedict Nisperos, President, Law Student Government (LSG), College of Law, University of the Philippines - Diliman

Walter Tamayo, History Department Representative, AngKAS (CSSP History Department Core Group), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Ernest Calayag, Secretary General, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP)

Nico Ibaviosa, President, UP Alliance for Responsive Involvement and Student Empowerment (ARISE), College of Engineering, University of the Philippines - Diliman

Gibby Gorres, Executive Director, Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN)

Ara Tan, President, UP Kalipunan ng mga Mag-aaral ng Sosyolohiya (KMS), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Serge Aclan, Chairperson, College of Allied Medical Professions Student Council (CAMPSC), University of the Philippines - Manila

Jason Alacapa, Chairperson, University Student Council (UPM USC), University of the Philippines - Manila

Marjorie Anne Yoro, Suprema, UP Kabataang Pilosopo Tasyo (KaPiTas), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Karla Mae de Leon, Suprema, UP Kalipunan para sa Agham Panlipunan at Pilosopiyang Pilipino (UP KAPPP), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Luisa Lioanag, Bos Tsip-Tsip, UP Bukluran sa Sikolohiyang Pilipino (Buklod-Isip), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Patricza Torio, Tagapangulo, UP Lipunang Pangkasaysayan (LIKAS), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Paulina Miranda, Chairperson, College of Education Student Council (CESC), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Joni Dumasig, President, Union of Progressive Students (UPS), University of the Philippines - Cebu

Fred Omalza, President, People United to Lead, Obey, and Serve (PULOS), University of the Philippines - Mindanao

Ema Escanilla, Speaker, UP People-Oriented Leadership in the Interest of Community Awareness (UP POLITICA), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Van Battad, President, UP Sirkulo ng mga Kabataang Artista (SIKAT), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Heart Diño, Chairperson, University Student Council (UPD USC), University of the Philippines - Diliman

Robin Charles Ramos, President, Cor Jesu Association of Graduate Students (CJAGS), Cor Jesu College, Digos City, Davao del Sur

Juan Paulo Oreta Rodriguez, Executive Board / Federation Chairman, Barkadahang San Joseño, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan

Leo Christian Lauzon, Chairperson, Youth Against Debt (YAD) Eastern Visayas

Jennifer Julia Lacaba, President, Animal Concerns and Awareness Club (AC2), University of the Philippines - Visayas Tacloban College

Princess Kimberly Ubay-ubay, President, School of Business and Management Student Council (SBMSC), Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan, Cagayan de Oro City

Frezalva Vir Burce, Program Coordinator / Child Protection Officer, Children International - Child Sponsorship for Community Development Inc. (CSCDI), Tabaco City, Albay

Roy Dahildahil, Chairperson, Partido sang Mainuswagon nga Bumulutho (PMB), University of the Philippines - Visayas, Miagao, Iloilo

Glosuvel Requina, President, Council of Maritime Leaders (CML), University of Cebu - Maritime Education and Training Center, Cebu City

Cedrick Sagun, President, UST Political Science Forum (UST-TPSF), University of Santo Tomas - Manila

Dawn Po Quimque, President, College of Communication Student Council (COC-SC), Polytechnic University of the Philippines

Jonah Elaine Abubakar, President, School of Business and Management (SBM) - Business Economics Society (BES), Universidad de Zamboanga, Zamboanga City

Michael Villamor, President, Supreme Student Government - Northern Cebu Colleges, Bogo City, Cebu

Danise Talaba, President, Team Communication (TeamComm), De La Salle University - Manila

Xander Losaria, OIC / Secretary General, SENTRO - La Salle, De La Salle University - Dasmariñas

Jem Francelle Sanico, Chairperson, Samahan ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Alternatibong Reporma at Pagbabago (SAMAR Party), University of Eastern Philippines, Northern Samar

Charisse Marie Catama, Student Regent, University of Eastern Philippines, Northern Samar

Marlon Padua, Vice President for Non-Academics, STI Student Council, STI College - Southwoods, Carmona, Cavite

Anne Lorraine Garcia, Most Idyllic Sister, UP Sigma Beta Sorority, University of the Philippines - Diliman

Jana Cabuhat, President, University Student Government (DLSU USG), De La Salle University - Manila

Allenia Nia Chua, Vice President, Youth Aids Filipinas Alliance (YAFA), University of the Philippines - Visayas Tacloban College

Arisa Bajana, Lord Chancellor, Vox La Salle Debate Society, De La Salle University - Dasmariñas

Renier Louie Bona, Youth Representative, TLF - Sexuality, Health, and Rights Educators (TLF-SHARE) Collective, Inc.

Gab Andres, President, Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (TAPAT), De La Salle University - Manila

Kelvin Tagnipez, Chairperson, School of Economics Student Council (SESC), University of the Philippines - Diliman

John Tobit Cruz, President, Angat Kabataan, Taytay, Rizal

Migs Angeles, Secretary General, Akbayan Youth - UPD, University of the Philippines - Diliman

Khim Joseph Naval, President, Association of Political Science Students, University of Nueva Caceres, Naga City, Camarines Sur

Paolo Martin Saberon, Executive Director, Cebuano Youth Ambassadors

Starjoan Villanueva, Executive Director, Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao

Marwil Llasos, Candidate for Senator (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party

Carlos Cabochan, Candidate for Representative, 2nd District of Caloocan City (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party

Harry Tambuatco, Candidate for Representative, Lone district of Muntinlupa city (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party

Edilberto M. Cuenca, Candidate for Representative, 1st District of Makati City (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party

Mr. Frank Reyes, Candidate for Representative, Lone District of Mandaluyong City (2013), Ang Kapatiran Party

Bong Fabe, Freelance journalist

Aurora Regalado, Lead Convenor, Rice Watch and Action Network

Pablo Rosales, Pangulo, Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda (PANGISDA)

Boy Alban, Pangulo, League of Urban Poor for Action (LUPA)

Jun Pascua, National Coordinator, Pambansang Katipunan ng Makabayang Magbubukid (PKMM)

Relito Arisgado, Pangulo, Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Maralita ng Malabon

Elvira Baladad, Samahang 53 nd Macabud

Trinidad Domingo, Spokesperson, Save Agrarian Reform Alliance

Merci Llarinas Angeles, Executive Director, Peace Women Partners

Arvin A. Jo, Focal Person, The Access Initiative (TAI)-Philippines

Baibonn D. Sangid, Former Chairperson, Young Moro Professionals Network

Gloria Santos, President, Kilusan at Ugnayan ng Maralitang Pasigueño (KUMPAS)

Janel Pesons, Secretary General, Mindanao People's Peace Movement (MPPM)

Roy Jerusalem Cabonegro, Secretary General, GREENS PH (Philippine Green Party/ Partido Kalikasan) and Executive Director, Partido.Kalikasan (Greens PH) Institute Inc.

Ren Bondad, Sanlakas Youth

Alex Castro, KAISA-UP Diliman

Ronald Salas, Social Action Center, Maasin, Southern Leyte

Rafaela David, Good Governance Advocate

Hermie Oraya, Provincial Coordinator, Youth for Rights, Eastern Samar

Ronald Allan Barnacha, Chairperson, PRRM Nueva Viscaya

Roldan Gonzales, Executive Director, Gitib

Datu Jimboy Catawanan, President, SOLED-Ki

Chadwick Llanos, Focal Person, Cebu Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Environment

Grace Villanueva, Executive Director, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC)

Mai Taqueban, Deputy Director for Research and Policy Development, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC)

Manjette Lopez, President, Sanlakas Party List

Rasti Delizo, Alliance Coordinator, Sanlakas Party List

Philip Adula, Coordinator, Sanlakas, Eastern Samar

Jefferson Agaloos, Chairperson, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Youth Association

Evelyn Lacambra, President, CLAIM Lallo

Tanie S. Suaño, Executive Director, Convergence of NGOs/POs in ZAmboanga del Sur on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development

Carmencita Andoy, Environmental Awareness Team, Misamis Occidental

Mary Ann V. Fuertes, Executive Director, Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), Davao City

Strauss Fernandez, Executive Secretary, RECON Philippines

Jean Enriquez, Executive Director, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific

Benito Molino, Chairperson, Concerned Citizens of Sta. Cruz (CCOS-Zambales)

Jose Melvin Lamanilao, Executive Director, Paglilingkod Batas Pangkapatiran Foundation, Inc.

Jaybee Garganera, Coordinator, Alyansa Tigil Mina


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