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MANILA, Philippines -- Nearing the conclusion of the ongoing impeachment trial against Supreme Chief Justice Renato Corona, House Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" Tanada III on Tuesday expressed strong conviction for transparency in government.
"Between the impeachment and the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill, my priority is the latter," said Tanada, principal author of the measure.
He clarified that even if he is preoccupied with the ongoing trial at the Senate, he "would never be busy when it comes to shepherding the passage of the FOI Bill."
Tanada is one of the spokespersons of the prosecution panel on the impeachment trial of the chief magistrate.
"Yes, the impeachment is very important when it comes to exacting accountability from the impeached chief justice, but we really have to realize that if we passed the FOI long before, we wouldn’t have this issue to begin with," he said.
"Everyone in government, like Mr. Corona, would have been careful and more honest in filing their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN)," he added.
The lawmaker said that he is "ready, willing, and able" to do his duties as part of the House prosecution panel, but when any business concerning the FOI Bill is scheduled in the Lower House, he "will surely be on top of it."
"The impeachment is an important matter indeed, but when I am called to fight for the FOI in the House, I will be there because its passage ensures a more long-term solution for accountability, transparency, and good governance," said Tanada.
"Altogether, our fight in the Senate impeachment court and our fight for the passage of the FOI give a clear signal that the people are clamoring for truth and integrity in the public officials who serve them," he said.
Once the trial draws to a close, Tanada said, "hopefully, we get a conviction not just for Mr. Corona, but for dishonesty as well. And when this happens, I hope that we will be able to finally legislate government transparency through the passage of the FOI Bill."
"They say honesty is the best policy, and the greater manifestation of this is practicing transparency, especially among government officials and employees," he said.
Meanwhile, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., in an interview, admitted that both the FOI and the Reproductive Health (RH) bills will not be approved in time for the state of the nation address (SONA) of President Benigno S. Aquino III in July.
Belmonte said the two bills were not included in the list of priority measures by the House of Representatives.
At present, he said the Lower Chamber is focused on approving economic measures such as the Anti-Trust bill.
The Speaker also expressed confidence on the current performance of the House prosecution panel in the ongoing impeachment trial of the chief justice at the Senate.
He said the House respects whatever will be the decision of the Senate impeachment court on the case of Corona.