23 July 2013

[FYI in TV5 / Interaksyon] OFW, FOI, EJK | What the SONA left out

by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

MANILA, Philippines -- Overseas Filipino workers, the Freedom of Information Bill and extrajudicial killings. These were some of the key issues President Benigno Aquino III failed to mention in his close to two-hour state of the nation address Monday.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also presidential adviser on OFW concerns, said while he was satisfied with the SONA, noted the lack of recognition of the country’s overseas workers.

"I am satisfied. Mayroon lamang ibang bagay na nawaglit … iyong OFWs, ang tulong na ipinakita ng ating pamahalaan (But were some things omitted … the OFWs, the assistance given them by government)," Binay said.

"Baka kulang sa oras, pero malaki talaga ang naitulong din ng ating OFWs. Remittances natin increasing ‘yan, at tuluy-tuloy na isang dahilan kaya gumanda ang ekonomiya natin ay dahil tumataas ang remittances (There may not have been enough time, but our OFWs have helped a lot. Our remittances are increasing, and one reason why our economy continues to improve is because of increasing remittances)," he added.

Several lawmakers and advocates also expressed dismay over Aquino’s failure to mention, again, the FOI bill, which he had promised to push when he campaigned for the presidency but which he has never mentioned in any of his previous SONAs.

"While he was talking about Secretary Jesse Robredo and tuwid na daan (the straight path), I thought that would have been the ideal segue for bills such as FOI. But he didn't mention it," Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said.

Akbayan party-list Representative Ibarra Gutierrez said: "When the President talked about ensuring accountability and transparency in government service, that was the perfect opportunity to talk about FOI."

"After all, FOI will institutionalize daang matuwid. It will allow ordinary people to hold to account public offices after 2016, in the same manner the President is doing so now," he said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also took Aquino to task for ignoring the FOI bill, saying, “For all his lofty vows to weed out corruption, never did he mention that which would truly arm and empower the people to join the battle for genuinely good governance -- the freedom of information, that which he, time and again promised when he sought our votes and then so conveniently forgot once he came to power."

The media organization also noted that, in a lengthy presentation of “what he claims to have accomplished, and rhetoric about the path he would take us down," Aquino made no mention “of human rights and the impunity with which these continue to be violated under his watch, as the bloody list of journalists, activists, environmentalists, religious, lawyers, indigenous people and many others whose lives have been snuffed out for simply deigning to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms continues to grow."

The NUJP said what Aquino left out of his SONA “forebodes the course he has charted for his remaining three years: one laden with more broken promises and, consequently, more bloodshed."

In a separate statement, the FOI Youth Initiative said it was unfazed by the President's "snub" of the FOI bill in his speech.

The group said they would continue to push for the measure in Congress.  

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