01 February 2013

[FYI in Journal Online] FOI executioner

From http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/editorial/44001-foi-executioner.

by Nolan Abelilla

Call him ‘Doctor Death’ from now on.

As a former reporter himself, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone could only have been the natural defender-in-chief of the Freedom of Information bill.

We in media can only expect that a colleague would lead the congressional charge for full transparency or disclosure of official transactions that impact on the public interest.     

After all, he was not made chairman of the House committee on public information for nothing.

How dead wrong we were.

In a spineless act of surrender, Evardone casually raised the white flag for a meaningful advocacy which was – quite ironically – courageously pushed by a  congressional colleague with absolutely no journalism background but whose heart is in the right place — Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada. Take a bow, Congressman Tañada.         

In a shameless move for which he would be remembered in infamy by both his former colleagues in media and transparency campaigners, the lawmaker declared his apparent “surrender” over the ill fate of the FOI bill in the 15th Congress.

Thus, youth leaders expressed their disappointment and frustration. 

“It was ‘Doctor’ Evardone who declared that the FOI bill was ‘dead’ due to lack of time and quorum in the House of Representatives. However, it is clear that the main cause was ‘legislative malpractice’ on his part,” said Carlo Brolagda, convenor of the FOI Youth Initiative, a network of 70 youth organizations and student councils from all over the country fighting for the passage of the said measure.

Brolagda, also  chairman of the UP Diliman CSSP Student Council, added: “If we look back, it was Evardone – himself a former campus journalist and student leader in the early 1980s — who didn’t call for enough committee hearings for the bill to be tackled at the soonest possible time when the 15th Congress began. He made us wait until the final months before the start of the 2013 elections, and made so many excuses like the absence of a Liberal Party position on the bill to the unavailability of a room to house the meeting.”

“We find it insulting that he faces the media trying to create an image that he did everything he can to save the measure, when in fact, he was the one who actually killed it,” said Arjay Mercado, president of the UP Economics Towards Consciousness.

Mercado stressed: “FOI is a youth and student issue also. Our right to information shouldn’t be denied by so-called Representatives who fear transparency and accountability.”

With three remaining session days left, the FYI sees that the bill can no longer be passed unless  President Aquino certifies it as urgent. They noted that the FOI bill was once part of the President’s campaign promises in 2010. 

“We will continue to fight for this,” said Brolagda, “Our democracy will remain incomplete without a law on freedom of information. We young people will be persistent and steadfast in our struggle for a government that is open and honest to the people it serves.” 

Government is about making things happen,  getting things done, but with Evardone in the House, expect things to never get done.

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