House Speaker’s sorry on freedom of info bill rejected

By Bb. Tayuman Recto-Yap, Bb. Joyce Cabral, Billy Javier Reyes and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines- “We don’t need your sorry.” This was the reaction of the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on reports quoting outgoing House Speaker Prospero Nograles that the fourth highest official of the land was sorry for the failure of 14th Congress to pass the Freedom of Information Bill. Nograles said he was sorry for the fate of the Freedom of Information Bill and that did his best to have the controversial measure passed by Congress but there was no quorum at the time the Lower House was set to approve the freedom of info bill.

“We were not born yesterday Mr. Speaker. The Freedom of Information Bill according to the narrow sentiment and interest of Malacanang was designed for a grand massacre,” said Pamalakaya.

“House Speaker Nograles wants to take the truth and justice seeking people of this country to another roller coaster ride. This aging and has-been politician from Davao City will go down in history as one of those shameless and lowlife political prostitutes of all time,” said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader said House Speaker Nograles could had grabbed the opportunity and redeem himself by leading the congressmen to vote in favor of the legislative measure that will empower the Filipino public to source information about contracts and transactions entered into by government agencies and officials, which are deemed disadvantage or inimical to public interest.

“Mr. Speaker opportunity knocks only once. But you did not open the door of the House because that will put the ruling but outgoing occupant in Malacanang and their partners in crime in and out of the Palace and in and out of the House of Representatives in the name of political and legal immunity of the Arroyos and their close associates,” added France.

Pamalakaya said the failure of Congress to pass the Freedom of Information Bill will prevent the group from asking reports and documents from different government agencies concerning government officials and offices involved in big time crimes of corruption.

The militant group is set to demand next Congress to pursue investigations and legislative inquiries pertaining to still unresolved complaints of corruption against President Arroyo, favored cabinet members like former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and top military and police officials implicated in controversial anomalies involving huge public funds.

Pamalakaya earlier said it will ask the next Speaker of the House of Representatives to pursue the investigation of several anomalies involving President Arroyo and Sec. Yap and other top officials of the agriculture department regarding millions of pesos of missing funds at the agriculture department.

One of the issues of corruption which the group will raise is the P 455-million ice making scandal which Pamalakaya said was perpetrated by Malacanang and ex-agriculture secretary and now elected congressman (Bohol, 3rd district) Yap.

“It will be hard for us to secure documents and reports from DA just like the old times, because the law that should have given us the legal franchise to exercise our constitutional right to basic information is thwarted by the Arroyo-Nograles syndicate,” Pamalakaya lamented.

Meanwhile, Pamalakaya challenged leading presidential candidate
Senator Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to certify the approval of the Freedom of Information bill in 15th Congress and make it as one of the prioritized legislative agenda in the first 100 days of his administration.

But some quarters are saying it would still be an uphill battle for the controversial measure, since majority of the allies of President Arroyo who are allergic to the freedom on info bill would still exact political influence in Congress under the Aquino administration.

Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III is optimistic presumptive Philippine president elect Aquino would be fully behind the FOI bill that seeks to improve transparency in government transactions and to make it easier for the public to get the data they need.#

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