BLINDSIDED (The FOI Bill & Makabayan)


I almost missed it.

All these years of lobbying for the Freedom of Information bill, you get to know your “enemies”:

  • Legislators at the House of Representatives who insisted on lumping their Right of Reply measure with the FOI (RoR would reward politicians and other fat cats who dodge questions raised by media, by allowing them to dictate how, when and where to offer their spin);
  • Malacanang, the President in particular, for reneging on a promise to certify the bill as urgent, remaining hostile (lukewarm at best) to the idea of FOI – even when the Palace’s version had been adopted by the Committee on Information and (more reluctantly) accepted by advocates;
  • Palace lapdogs that hemmed and hawed, delaying movement even at the Committee level;
  • The Leadership of the HoR, Liberal Party stalwarts, who jump to crack the whip for the President’s pet initiatives and likewise take their FOI cues from him.

With only nine session days before Congress adjourns for the campaign season,  the House leadership yet again delayed plenary proceedings needed to muster FOI passage at second and third readings. (Read the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism account here) This prompted a walkout by advocates. But it surprised no one.

What stunned was the move of militant party-list bloc, Makabayan to withdraw support for the bill.

OPPOSITION

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, a principal author of the bill, explained in a press conference that while the bloc supports the public clamor for the passage of an FOI bill, “we feel that the substitute bill, because of the weight of the restrictions, does not anymore reflect our vision of a genuine Freedom of Information Bill.” He said they would push for amendments in plenary and will duly co-author the measure again if and when the exceptions are deleted or substantially amended. “What we need is a genuine FOI bill, not a watered-down version.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino

For Makabayan’s chief plaints, read Casino’s blog. The release also quotes Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan, as saying,  “We have to be vigilant. If we retain the exceptions, we are negating the basis of the proposed measure.”

Casino said the bloc “would push for amendments in plenary and will duly co-author the measure again if and when the exceptions are deleted or substantially amended.” On Twitter, hours after Makabayan’s announcement, Casino called it a necessity.

Technically, he is right. We all saw Senators Ralph Recto and Tito Sotto during the Senate plenary proceedings on the RH Law.

Many of Makabayan’s concerns were also raised by groups advocating the FOI. It is a coalition of various political stripes. It could be that after years and years of pushing the measure, most advocates decided to swallow these bitter pills.

Everyone thought a consensus had been reached.

As blogger Noemi Lardizabal-Dado noted: Confusion

She wasn’t the only one confused. We were all blindsided.

WHY ONLY NOW?

"DEKALOGO" by Elmer Borlongan
“DEKALOGO” by Elmer Borlongan

Call us naive. But many of the FOI advocacy groups have sat and discussed and marched on the streets with Makabayan legislators and their followers on other issues.

We’ve met each other several times in the last several months, fighting the Cybercrime Law or urging justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre, among other issues.  In all those meetings and huddles, not once did a Makabayan representative attempt to drag us from the road to perdition.

I am a member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), which advocates for FOI. There has been no call, no text message, no twitter post to indicate Makabayan’s position on our position. Reams of statements, manifestos and updates have been written, so many fora called, so many meetings held (with or without the bill’s main author, Rep. Erin Tanada) — NADA.

Nobody drew any of us aside to warn, hey, you’re agreeing to a meaningless measure or, as Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino dubbed the substitute bill, a “Freedom of Exemption” measure. Wala man lang nagsabi, “mag-babanggaan tayo dito.”

JUST. THIS. SUDDEN. ANNOUNCEMENT. A shot fired. Suddenly, I feel like the enemy. Especially since Casino now calls it “Malacanang’s FOI Bill.”

NO WAY TO TREAT ALLIES

NOT talkingOn Twitter last night, a Makabayan supporter and Casino pointed out that they had been open about their disaffection and had issued press releases and spoken in committee hearings; that they had voted for it on the committee level to simply get it out into the plenary.

The subtext being, that they waved it through to halt the delays. Another subtext being, that they’ll fix all problems in the plenary. Someone even said, don’t worry, we’ll sort this out.

Why, thank you!

Is this what Congress does to people? After decades of on-ground political campaigns, Makabayan has forgotten about alliance work? Or, worse, forgotten what ALLY means?

Has the line between political campaigns and legislative work now become a WALL, so that Makabayan purely focuses its tactics and strategies on their HoR colleagues and the Palace? Was it so hard to talk to us, call us to a meeting, and present, section by section, their concerns over what they now call a “fake” FOI bill?

Yes, we supported that bill. Call us unenlightened. Call us backward. Did you ever bother to sit down and enlighten us? Did Makabayan see us as so blinkered and hoodwinked, so unworthy of dialogue? That “fake” bill did not drop from the sky yesterday.

There was enough time — god knows Rep. Ben Evardone, with a nod and a wink from Speaker Sonny Belmonte, did enough noynoying these past months.

There was enough room for the advocates to thrash out their issues. Makabayan wouldn’t have gotten everything it wanted, but it could have gotten some of its demands. Many of us had raised the same points. If we eventually agreed to the current version, it was in good faith.

Mindset defines the process. We may have gotten lost in the FOI quagmire. But your loss, Makabayan, seems to be of a more profound sort. (And that is said with great pain.)

Well, there’s one day more, and one more day. Eight days. And the rest of our lives.

15 thoughts on “BLINDSIDED (The FOI Bill & Makabayan)

  1. Huwag magmaangmaangan. Alam mo naman kung bakit. Ang mga media-manunulat-hunyango na tulad mo ay ideological state aparatus na nagsisilbi’t nagpapalakas sa sistemang bulok. Isa kang tuta, bayaran, at pahirap sa bayan.

    Like

      • Tama po. Pasintabi sa lahat ng manunulat na matatamaan pero sa totoo lang lalo pang pinalalala ng mga akda niyo ang lipunan. Panlilinlang ang sulat niyo tulad ng FOI bill na gusto niyong ipasa kahit na sa totoo lang ay wala ng saysay. Mukhang may naiaambag pero wala naman talaga. Bakit kailangan kausapin ang nakapag desisyon na, ang namiling gumamit at magpagamit sa pulitika? Ang tunay na manunulat nagsusulat to serve the people at hindi upang magpasikat at magsilbi sa pangulo ng mga panginoong may lupa at magpagamit kay edwin laciendera.

        Like

      • I think this post of Ma’am Inday and the reaction from Ms. Mikaela are simply emotionally driven. Personally, I think an FYI to advocates at least could have been in order — but I’m glad you at least agreed to the “necessity” of the move. I always go back to the fundamental principle that we must fight for the passage of a GENUINE FOI Bill. Anything else would be defeat — therefore the need for Makabayan’s plenary tactic.

        As for Ma’am Inday’s supposed role as a state mouthpiece or not, we leave it to readers to decide. But I think in this particular incident, it is just a case of miscommunication among earnest advocates. The challenge now is to work on the unity again in the remaining 7 days.

        Like

    • Simple lang naman ang point niyo kasi Mikaela. Sa dulo ng lahat, gusto niyo pa ring mapahiya ang palasyo. Ganyan kayo eh, para lang mangyari ang gusto niyo mangyari, handa kayong isakripisyo ang tama. Your end justifies your means. At bakit, inisip mo rin ba ito? Hindi ba ibinaba lang naman sayo ito at sinabi sayong ito ang paniwalaan mo?

      Ikaw ang parte ng kalokohang binuo para lokohin ka. Oras na para mag-isip ka para sa sarili mo, at hindi ibang tao ang nagdidikta sa mga paniniwala mo.

      Matagal na kayong buking sa plano niyong paguluhin lalo ang Pilipinas. Kung ako sa inyo, gumawa na lang ng mga konkretong paraan. Hindi yang manggugulo lang kayo ng kapwa niyo. Sino bang naniniwala sa inyo? Kahit galing sa masa at kahit sa intelektwal na mga tao, hindi na nabibilog na kahibangan ninyo.

      Like

  2. Simple lang naman ang ipinakita ng Makabayan, at ito ay mas mahalaga ang propaganda kumpara sa totoong legislative work. Wala sa puso nila ang pagsusulong ng batas. Remember ang boto nila sa RH ay “yes with reservation”.

    Mas mataas kasi ang tingin nila sa armadong pakikibaka kaysa sa reporma sa batas, ekonomiya at iba pa tulad ng legislative work na isa lamang propaganda work. Pang-agitate lang ito.

    Like

  3. The problem with those activists is that they think they can change society with just rallies, shouting and agitation. Running a government involves more than just rhetorics and shouting Marxist slogans on the streets.

    Like

  4. Funny. Suddenly, YOU feel blindsided. You feel like an enemy. You say this is no way to treat allies. But I hear you’ve also treated former “allies” this way once they help the government. Not everyone is a “lapdog,” in case you didn’t know. All these years of self-righteousness on your part have made you incapable of examining your own behavior. Moral high ground? Why don’t we just cut the hypocrisy, Miss Varona?

    Like

    • Thank you🙂 I would never ever call MLQ a lapdog. Or half a dozen friends who have tried with honor to navigate the contradictions. I have many soldier friends and many of them are exceptional people. Wondering just how many former “allies” I’ve called lapdogs.🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s