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La Chica Viajera by Frencie L. Carreon

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Taking a Stand on FOI

At this point of 2013, this column has a number of stories to share, but the National Union of Jounalists of the Philippines-Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi Chapter is making a stand, as we join all other chapters across the Philippines over our concern on how our legislators are dealing with the Freedom of Information Act. About a week to go, we still find our solons playing dumb and deaf to a matter of Constitutional importance as our right to free expression.  Even our own Congressional Representatives in Zamboanga City, once media men themselves, d o not favor it, for their own reasons.

Below is the NUJP Pooled Editorial for January 21, 2013, and for want of Editorials in our local papers, here it is:

“IT IS the season of elections and all political parties and candidates are wont to spin a slew of promises yet again in their drive for votes.

But before they start courting voters yet again, the first order of business is this: Political parties and candidates must deliver on a promise they’ve made in elections past by taking and making known their party and personal stand on the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

Over the last 15 years, from th 11th to the 15th Congress, the FOI bill has been stuck in the legislative wringer for lack of clarity and coherence in how lawmakers and their political parties stand on the issue. Even as President Aquino himself as a candidate in May 2010 had promised to push the FOI into law, members of his ruling Liberal Party and its allies in the majority coalition of the Nacionalista Party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, and the National Unity Party, have separately come out as either the most ardent champions or the most strident critics of the FOI bill.

Between the pros and the cons in the FOI bill equation, that is where these political parties are: fence-sitters with neither leadership nor clarity of purpose with respect to the constitutionally guaranteed state policies of transparency and accountability that the FOI bill upholds.

Political will from all the political parties could yet assure the passage of the FOI bill in the remaining nine session days from Jan. 21 to Feb. 8, 2013, or before Congress adjourns for the elections. Calling for a conscience vote on the FOI bill is a clear cop-out by political parties and candidates now aspiring to be elected into office.

All voters must carefully scrutinize how these parties and their candidates for the 2013 elections will stand on FOI in their remaining nine session days. The countdown begins today. How they stand on the FOI bill, and if at all they will take a stand on this all-important reform measure, will give us an idea whether or not they deserve our vote in the coming May elections.” (NUJP Pooled Editorial; Ref:  NUJP Secretary General Rowena Carranza-Paraan)




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