Aquino pitches for FOI in 2016 budget message

President Benigno Aquino III may not have mentioned the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill in his lengthy state of the nation address (Sona) on Monday, July 27, but he tried to compensate for it by including it in his message to Congress for the single most important bill enacted yearly – the General Appropriations Act.

“To ensure the permanency of transparency policies, we urge Congress to pass the FOI Act,” President Aquino said in his budget message that accompanied his proposal for a P3-trillion appropriation for 2016.

Several lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction over Aquino’s Sona for his silence on the FOI bill that he and the Liberal Party (LP) supported during the previous administration.

Aquino asserted that his administration has promoted transparency especially in spending public money.

Amid criticisms over lump sum funds in the proposed 2016 budget, Aquino said discretionary funds have been reduced in the P3.002-trillion national budget to lower the chances for corruption.

Aquino committed to pass the FOI bill, which was one of his campaign promises, before the steps down in 2016.

In an interview in Malacañang, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President’s commitment still stands and the executive would push for the bill’s passage in Congress.

“Dahil nga po naisumite na ito noon pang nakaraan, nakasama naman po ‘yan talaga sa priority list. At sa kongkretong manipestasyon mismo ng Speaker of the House of Representatives, siya na po ang nagpahayag kung ano ang mga panukalang batas na itinuturing nilang prayoridad,” Coloma pointed out.