WITH ONLY six days of sessions left before the 15th Congress adjourns, and despite the optimism of Congressman Lorenzo (Erin) Tanada III, the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill was dead in the water as of this writing (January 24).
Although the House Public Information Committee chaired by Samar Representative Ben Evardone had seen the bill through, getting it into the plenary for discussion had so far been as problematic as the search for the Holy Grail.
CONTROLLING THE flow of information—deciding what citizens are told, how it’s presented to them and even determining what they should and shouldn’t know—has always been a critical concern among the powerful. Whether in the Philippines, its neighbors, or in the most backward or most developed countries of the world, the kind of information that reaches citizens is crucial to the outcome of elections, the making of the policies that decide the quality of life of millions, the staying power of dictators, and even the prospects for war or peace.
The entire planet is inundated with tsunamis of information daily, thanks to the international media organizations’ relentless transmission of reports, commentary and images via cable, print and the Internet. The swift advance of information and communication technology has also made national borders of no consequence to filtering information. At the national level, radio, TV and print assail the senses daily in most countries including those yet to achieve the same level of development as Japan and most Western nations.
IN a meeting with representatives of some member organizations of the Right to Know Right Now coalition campaigning for a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, Nueva Ecija Congressman Rodolfo Antonino refused to remove the Right of Reply (ROR) rider in a bill on FOI he has introduced in the 15th Congress.
His fellow representatives, said Antonino, want that rider in any FOI act that’s passed to guarantee that if the media were to report anything about them that puts them in a bad light, they would be able to present their side, or to correct an error in reporting. When told that fairness by presenting both sides of a controversy or issue, and in accusations of wrong doing, the alleged wrongdoer’s denial and explanation, is an ethical principle in journalism practice, Antonino flung at the journalists present the charge that media self-regulation doesn’t work, thus the need to compel media fairness through law.
IT MUST have been the maroon robes—and the fact that the senators of the Republic, with one outrageous exception, were on their best behavior in the glare of TV lights during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona early this year.
But the developing public impression of Senate gravitas, commitment to truth and justice, and good sense during that time—akin almost, though not quite, to the respect the Senate used to enjoy during the days of Claro M .Recto, Jose P.Laurel and Lorenzo Tanada—is fast giving way to collective disgust.
NOTHING is impossible, said President Benigno Aquino III last Monday during his third State of the Nation Address, while demonstrating in the same speech that certain things are just not possible in an Aquino SONA.
Apparently it’s not possible for Mr. Aquino to mention “Human Rights violations,” “extrajudicial killings,” “Freedom of Information,” “Ampatuan Massacre,” “the killing of journalists” or even “Reproductive Health” in his address. And it’s probably not because of the limitations of his vocabulary.