Akbayan Party-list today blasted the unwarranted and violent dispersal of farmers holding a rally in front of Batasan Pambansa and urged the leadership of the House of Representatives to conduct a thorough investigation of the "cold-hearted" handling of the incident.
"We denounce the callous and violent method employed by security agents to disperse a very small and powerless group of farmers whose mere agenda for trooping to Congress is to express their long-awaited clamor for the passage of the bill seeking for the completion of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)," Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.
"The use of violence is callous and definitely unwarranted as it smacks squarely on the farmers' right to fully express their legitimate concerns and other compelling public interests to be addressed by the government and other concerned government agencies," he added.
The proposed People's Freedom of Information Act (FOI) moves forward after the bill has been endorsed for Second Reading by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Information.
With reference number House Bill No. 5801, the committee report on the proposed measure was filed earlier today at the Bills and Index Service of the House of Representatives for referral to the Committee on Rules, which will calendar the measure for Second Reading.
"This is yet another step forward in our quest for a transparent and accountable government befitting the Filipino people," Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.
"We are looking forward to the plenary debates on the bill which are certainly bound to be challenging. But we are already prepared to answer any and all questions relating to the various issues and concerns about the FOI. With strong support from the various FOI legislator-champions and the public, we are optimistic the bill will make it to Second Reading before session adjourns on June 10," Gutierrez added.
Weapon against Corruption
Gutierrez also attested that the committee-approved FOI has been extensively discussed to make sure the bill protects the people's right to information and makes it an effective weapon against corruption.
"The TWG devoted nine meetings to deliberating the bill line-by-line, particularly on the exceptions. Not only did we make sure that each exception related to protecting an acceptable, legitimate and clearly stated public interest, we also adopted strong safeguards to counter any tendency to abuse those exceptions," the lawmaker said.
"For example, the government agency has the burden of proving the legal and factual basis in claiming an exception. Each exception shall be interpreted strictly, not liberally. Further, any exception shall not be invoked to cover up a crime, wrongdoing, graft, or corruption," Gutierrez explained.
After the filing of the committee report, the proposed law is expected to be included in the Order of Business and referred to the Committee on Rules. The Committee on Rules, in consultation with the House leadership, shall calendar it for consideration on Second Reading.###
Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez earlier today rejected the move of the House of Representatives Committee on Justice to adopt a Resolution supporting the grant of house arrest to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is under hospital detention over alleged misuse of P366 million funds for the Philippine Charity and Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Gutierrez, who was the sole lawmaker who voted against the motion, emphasized that granting Arroyo house arrest is akin to giving 'special privileges' to people who have the resources, power and people to represent their case.
"No one should be too big, even a former President, to escape accountability and the rule of law. That's how we prevent impunity, and that's how justice works," Gutierrez added.
His objection was overruled, 8-1, allowing the resolution to move forward to the Plenary for Assembly deliberations and voting.
Lawmakers who voted for the adoption of the measure were: 3rd District-Leyte Rep. Andres Salvacion, Jr., 1st District-Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, Baguio City Rep. Nicasio Aliping, 1-BAP Rep. Silvestre Bello, ABAMIN Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., ACT-CIS Rep. Samuel Pagdilao, 1st District-Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero, 1st District-Bulacan Rep. Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado.
Akbayan-Youth today reiterated its call to the House of Representatives to finally pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill which it sees as a safeguard measure against what it described as “Binay-like” corruption in reference to the 242 bank accounts allegedly owned by Vice President Jejomar Binay and his close associates.
The youth group said the public needed a potent policy tool like the FOI Bill to prevent public officials from engaging in unparalleled level of corruption in the future.
“Based on the report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the Vice President is setting a new standard for corruption unmatched in recent memory. However, this could have been exposed early on if an FOI law already existed at the time he was still amassing his ill-gotten wealth,” according to Akbayan Youth Chairperson Rafaela David.
“Kung may FOI Law dati pa baka walang 242 Binay bank accounts at overpriced parking building,” David added.
In her first week on the job, newly-sworn in Akbayan representative Angelina “Angie” Ludovice Katoh committed to investigate the Valenzuela fire that gutted Kentex Manufacturing's factory, and killed more than 70 workers on Wednesday.
“Nakakalungkot talaga ang nangyari at nakikiramay ang Akbayan sa pamilya ng lahat ng mga manggagawang biktima ng sunog na ito,” Katoh said.
“We will ensure a thorough investigation into the matter, and we will make sure that all responsible parties will be made to answer for this tragedy,” Katoh added.
Katoh, who was also a labor union organizer, explained that it was important to start with the Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) responsibility to ensure the welfare of workers.
"This is a big black mark on DOLE's record. More than 70 workers perished in that fire, and it is the responsibility of DOLE to ensure a safe and hazard-free working environment in all factories operating across the country," Katoh said.
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