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Freedom of Information advocates on Friday released partial transcripts of a media interview with Rep. Ben Evardone where the chairman of the House Committee on Public Information blames President Aquino and the Liberal Party for Congress' inaction over a proposed FOI law.
Summarizing Evardone's explanation of why the House of Representatives still has not acted on the FOI Bill, the Right to Know Right Now Coalition said in a statement: "It is not a priority of President Benigno Aquino, and there is no Liberal Party stand."
In an interview for the television program Failon Ngayon aired on August 25 over ABS-CBN, the FOI advocates quote Evardone as saying:
"Ako matagal ko nang gustong ilabas yan dito sa committee ko eh dahil ako nga ang nabubugbog sa media. Eh dati pa akong taga media (I have long been wanting to get through my committee since I am the one who gets beaten up in the media. And I was even with the media before)."
However, he added:
"Hindi naman priority ng ating Pangulo kasi wala doon sa legislative agenda na sinubmit sa atin, wala doon sa SONA." (It is not a priority of the President. It was not in the legislative agenda submitted to us, and neither was it in the SONA.)
Meanwhile, Evardone also pointed out that the administration party has no stand on the matterl. "Is there a party stand of the Liberal Party? There is none. Kung merong party stand ang Liberal Party, no problem, ako I toe the line." (If there is a party stand of the Liberal Party, no problem, I toe the line.)
The President, Evardone and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte belong to the Liberal Party.
The Right to Know Right Now Coalition said in a statement: "In Speaker Belmonte's speech at the opening of the third (and last) regular session of the 15th Congress on July 23, he referred to the FOI bill as a measure 'ready for a vote.' But the FOI bill remains at a standstill at Evardone's committee since then."
More than 100 member organizations of the coalition sent a petition to Belmonte on August 15. "At this crucial juncture in the term of the 15th Congress, we appeal for your intervention and concrete action on the FOI bill, pursuant to the powers and duties of the Speaker to ensure full deliberation and swift approval of priority measures," the letter said.
The coalition also raised concerns to the Speaker over Evardone's statements, reported by various media outlets, that his decision not to call a hearing was reportedly upon instruction of the House leadership. "We find this assertion incongruent with the commitment that you have so far expressed on FOI," the coalition said in its letter-appeal.
Belmonte has not responded to the letter, coalition officers said.