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Aquino, Evardone let go of FOI Bill

President Benigno Aquino III will not certify as urgent the Freedom on Information bill with three remaining session days left for the 15th Congress to pass the measure. Even the bill’s main sponsor, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, has thrown in the towel, saying the measure had “very little chance” of hurdling plenary discussions. “We do not have the material to debate on the measure within the remaining session days of Congress,” Evardone said. Congress has only until Wednesday next week to finish work before the campaign period starts. “That [certifying the FOI bill as urgent) is a very difficult request for me to do. There are specific conditions under the Constitution as to when I can use my powers to certify a measure as urgent,” the President said. “The debate on the FOI has just started on plenary.” Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the circumstances surrounding the FOI bill were not the same as when Mr. Aquino certified the reproductive health bill as urgent in December. “Our position is let’s have a debate, a healthy debate, on this issue and we will take it from there,” Lacierda said. “This government has plenty of FOI advocates and we certainly understand the concerns of the FOI advocates, but we need to have a healthy debate on this particular issue as we have seen a healthy debate that transpired in the passing of the Sin Tax Law as well as the Responsible Parenthood Law.” Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño was dismayed at Evardone’s pronouncement. “We express our disgust with the way the FOI bill has been killed by the President’s men in Congress,” Casiño said. “Congressman Evardone’s throwing in the towel...is just the last nail on the coffin that was designed and built by the President himself.” Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat said a miracle was needed to pass the FOI bill. “It is no longer feasible to pass [the bill] unless President Aquino miraculously certifies it,” he said. House Assistant Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna said there was no way the bill would be enacted even if the President certified it. “Sad to say, the remaining six days are not enough,” Tugna said. He said most of his colleagues were now busy preparing for the May 13 elections. Reps. Federico Quimbo and Erin Tañada saud there was not enough public awareness of what the proposed transparency law was about and how it would benefit the public. The FOI Youth Initiative, a network of 70 youth organizations and student councils fighting for the measure’s passage, said it was disappointed with Evardone. “It was ‘Doctor’ Evardone who declared that the FOI bill was ‘dead’ due to lack of time and quorum in the House of Representatives,” group convenor Carlo Brolagda said. “However, it is clear that the main case was ‘legislative’ malpractice on his part.” Arjay Mercado, president of the UP Economics Towards Consciousness, also criticized Evardone. “We find it insulting that he faces the media trying to create an image that he did everything he [could] to save the measure when, in fact, he was the one who actually killed it,” Mercado said. With Maricel Cruz
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