DRIFT and confusion. Some pockets of transparency but most everywhere, a predilection for opaqueness and more barriers to access in place. This is the access to information regime that lingers in the Philippines nearly a year after Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III came to power on a “Social Contract with the Filipino People,” which he said would be defined by transparency, accountability, and good governance.
But a seven-month PCIJ audit of how 27 national agencies deal with access to information requests shows spotty proof of Aquino’s recipe for good governance in the processes and practices of these agencies. While a few stand out as exemplars of transparency, the majority remain stuck in the old ways of opaque government, with some even sliding back into darker corners.
FOUR MORE members of the House of Representatives yesterday said they were among those wrongly named as absent — according to a list provided by Speaker Prospero Nograles to the media – during the roll call at the Session Hall last Friday, June 4, when the ratification of the Freedom of Information Act was scuttled for supposed lack of a quorum.
The four bring to eight the number of lawmakers erroneously tagged as not physically present during the roll call.
The eight bring to 136 – one more than the 135 threshold for a quorum in the 269-member House – the number of lawmakers that was needed to constitute a quorum and act on the motion to ratify the FOI bicameral conference committee report.
House Majority Leader Arthur Defensor motions to ratify the Freedom of Information Act, which was objected to by Camiguin representative Pedro Romualdo. Romualdo is prepared to be ‘condemned’ for blocking the passage of the proposed legislation as he questioned the lack of quorum in the chamber ‘as a matter of principle’.
OUT OF the last 14 years, lawyer Prospero Castillo Nograles spent 12 years as congressman of the first district of Davao City for five terms, and the last 27 months as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the 14th Congress.
A leader of the 12th and 13th Congresses as well, Nograles by 2008 authored 17 House bills and co-authored 86. He also helped pass laws, including the Rent Control Law, which limits increases in rentals, and the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
WHAT SECRET or secrets of the House of Representatives under Speaker Prospero Nograles would escape public scrutiny, amid Congress’s failed effort to ratify the Freedom of Information Act last Friday?
Many have asked that question after noting that Nograles himself had co-authored House Bill No. 3732, the lower chamber’s version of the FOI bill, which was authored by a full two-thirds or 181 of about 220 House members.
A DAY before the Freedom of Information Act was supposed to be taken up at the House of Representatives, Speaker Prospero Nograles told media that text messages and phone calls were being made to ensure that House members would attend Friday’s session for the ratification of the FOI bill.
THE 14TH Congress will open its second regular session on Monday with a spit-polished image, amid massive renovation efforts for the Marcos-era Batasang Pambansa building, home to the House of Representatives.
Largely cosmetic, the frenzied makeover has secured an initial funding of P200 million from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but once completed will cost taxpayers almost a billion pesos.
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