A Palace official on Wednesday denied allegations that the Aquino administration has taken action to block the passage of the Freedom of Information Act in the legislature, but admitted that the bill is not the administration’s top priority. “We have no hand in delaying [the passage of] the bill,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a briefing. “[But] there are a number of bills that have to be passed first admittedly which we have not denied, [like] the budget and the sin tax. The RH is another,” Lacierda added Lacierda also debunked rumors that members of Aquino’s cabinet, particularly Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., have lobbied to kill the bill. “That’s not true. Ayaw [daw] ilabas ‘yung minutes ng Cabinet meetings. Alam ko under a Supreme Court decision they are considered privileged already as it is. So hindi totoo ‘yon. It’s not true that Executive Secretary Ochoa is lobbying against FOI,” Lacierda said. Lacierda also debunked the notion that the administration is not taking the bill seriously. “Some quarters of the FOI advocates were accusing Secretary Carandang of saying that the bill is dead whereas he never said anything. He never made any comment in the Senate committee hearing,” Lacierda said, attributing the joke to a lawmaker instead. “In fact, it was Senator Frank Drilon who was joking about it,” Lacierda said. Not urgent? According to Lacierda, the administration has done its part in promoting the bill that would ensure easier access to public documents, but added that he did not feel the bill necessary to the present administration. “I understand that we need a law but, in practice, the Aquino administration has been very open,” Lacierda said. “We have spoken to the stakeholders; we have spoken to the coalition, they keep on telling us they have no problem with this administration because we know this administration is transparent. It lives up to its promise of transparency and accountability. It’s for the future administration,” Lacierda added. Lacierda said these comments alone are proof that the administration is not doing anything to derail the passage of the bill. “That particular statement coming from the FOI advocates should douse any speculation that this President will not support or is the lead conspirator in the fight against FOI Bill. That is totally incorrect. We are a government that practices transparency and our actions speak for themselves,” Lacierda said. — BM, GMA News
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