“Transparency and accountability are part and parcel of good governance. Espousing an anti-corruption agenda without passing enabling laws is a conundrum beyond comprehension.” – Rep. Raymond Palatino, Kabataan Party-list
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Practice what you preach.
Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino urged the House leadership, Tuesday, Nov. 6 to expedite the passage of bills that would allow greater transparency in the government. He said that while President Benigno S. Aquino III promised to get rid of corruption under his administration, the Congress whose majority is his allies should act on bills that would enable such transparency.
“The Aquino administration has kept on harping about its anti-corruption campaign. Yet the Congress leadership – composed of allies of the president – is taking eons to act upon bills that would enable such transparency. Well Mr. President, guess what, we’re running out of time,” Palatino said.
Palatino referred to House Bills pending in Congress, which includes the Freedom of Information Bill and the Bicameral Meeting Transparency Bill, as well as the repeal of the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Palatino reminded that there are only 33 working days remaining before Congress adjourns again on December 21. The Congress will resume again on Jan. 21, 2013 and will adjourn again on Feb. 8. 2013 to give way to the campaign period for the upcoming elections.
“Transparency and accountability are part and parcel of good governance. Espousing an anti-corruption agenda without passing enabling laws is a conundrum beyond comprehension,” Palatino said.
According to Palatino the FOI Bill is set to be discussed on Nov. 13 at the committee level. Meanwhile, House Bill 6651 or the Bicameral Meeting Transparency Bill filed by Palatino and Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño, has yet to be scheduled for deliberations.
The HB 6651 sets rules for the conduct of bicameral meetings which will enable “transparency and maximum public participation” in the deliberations, Palatino explained.
“Due to the secretive nature of the bicameral meetings, we have already witnessed how bills that have been deliberated for years in both houses end up either as watered-down versions or, as in the case of the Cybercrime Law, more punitive than what has been agreed upon during plenary deliberations,” Palatino said.
Palatino urged his fellow lawmakers to support the Bicam Transparency Bill along with the FOI Bill to ensure that the public is not left in the dark on matters that will greatly affect their welfare.
‘Repeal Cybercrime Law’
Meanwhile, Palatino also urged the House leadership to immediately consider House Bill 6613, which seeks to repeal Sections 4(c)4, 5, 6, 7 and the whole Chapter 4 of the Cybercrime Prevention Act or Republic Act 10175.
Section 4(c)4, 5, and 6 of RA 10175 relate to online libel, and are unconstitutional due its vagueness, the youth solon explained. Meanwhile, Chapter IV of RA 10175 is also unconstitutional for violating constitutional provisions on due process, Palatino said.
“A month has passed since the Supreme Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order against the Cybercrime Law, which we see as a cue for Congress leadership to expedite the processing of repeal bills now filed in both chambers of Congress,” Palatino said. However, he added, Congress leadership is seemingly uninterested in the passage of the said bill.
“It is the task of Congress to ensure that legislations essential for the protection of civil liberties are passed without delay. My fellow legislators in the 15th Congress, let us pass FOI, let us pass the Bicam Transparency Bill. Let us repeal the contentious Cybercrime Law. Time is ticking, and we should act or forever be adjudged as betraying the public’s trust,” Palatino said.
Anti-No Permit, No Exam Bill
Meanwhile, after its passage in Congress, the students are now lobbying in the Senate to pass their version of House Bill 4791 or the Anti-No Permit, No Exam Bill. Students from various public and private universities in Metro Manila trooped to the Senate yesterday, Nov. 6, to lobby for the passage of a Senate version of House Bill No. 4791
The Congress version of the said bill was principally authored by Palatino. In its declaration of policy, the bill declared that it is “unlawful for any technical-vocational (tech-voc) institute or higher education institution (HEI), whether public or private, to disallow any student of post-secondary and higher education from taking exams due to non-payment of tuition and other school fees.”
The consolidated HB 4791 was passed on third and final reading in Congress last Aug. 3, 2011. It was also co-authored by Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar, Kalinga Party-list Rep. Abigael Faye Ferriol and Manila 2nd District Rep. Carlo Lopez.
“When the Anti-‘No Permit, No Exam’ Bill was passed in Congress over a year ago, many students rejoiced, as it signaled the end of unjust policies that affect thousands of students during examination months,” said Palatino.
The HB 4791 penalizes the “imposition of a ‘No Permit, No Exam’ policy. The bill covers all public and private post-secondary tech-voc institutes and HEIs, including local colleges and universities.
The progressive youth solon urged the Senate to act on the said bill. According to Palatino, as per Congress records, the Senate had received the approved House version of HB 4791 last Aug. 10, 2011. However, Palatino said, the Senate has yet to act on the bill. “With the resumption of sessions this week, we hope the Senate can review this bill and expedite its passage.”
“There is not much time left. We fear that this hard-earned victory on the part of the students will just go to waste due to the Senate’s inaction,” said Isabelle Baguisi, secretary general of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.
Starting today, there are only 34 working days remaining before Congress again adjourns on December 21. To give way to the campaign period for the upcoming elections, Congress will resume session for only 15 working days next year, from January 21 to February 8.
“With little time left, students will intensify lobbying efforts in Senate for this bill. The 15th Congress should not adjourn without passing this important piece of legislation,” Baguisi said.
“The ball is now in the hands of Senate. On behalf of college and technical-vocational students nationwide, we implore our senators to consider this legislation and expedite its passage,” Palatino added.