Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of Information’


July 5, 2011 Leave a comment


by: Harvey S. Keh

The Manila Times

President Noynoy Aquino

THIS was the grade I gave President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in his first year in office when I was asked by reporters during last Sunday’s Balitaan sa Tinapayan media forum held in Manila. 85 is a mark that is neither too low nor too high for a president who has actually been at the forefront of our country’s fight against corruption but at the same time still needs some improvement in addressing other social problems. Let us be more objective and see what are the accomplishments of the Aquino administration and the issues that the President still needs to address after one year in office.

Victories and accomplishments

One of the major victories of this administration is the recent impeachment and subsequent resignation of former Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez, whom we all know is very close to the previous tenant of Malacañang. The resignation of Guttierez now paves the way for Aquino to pursue graft and corruption charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies. We hope that he would be able to make an objective, well thought of and impartial choice in appointing the next Ombudsman. Many Filipinos are still waiting for justice to be served to those who have taken part in corruption scams such as the NBN-ZTE broadband deal, fertilizer scam and the recently discovered rice scam wherein several thousands of tons of spoiled rice were found in the National Food Authority warehouse.

A good development has been the recent suspension of known Arroyo ally, former Congressman and current Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) Head Prospero Pichay for graft charges related to his allowing the use of LWUA funds to purchase a rural bank in Laguna.

Another accomplishment of this administration is a more proactive PAG-ASA wherein the general public now receives hourly updates on the coming typhoons and weather disturbances. This has allowed many of our citizens and government offices to prepare early as can be seen during the recent typhoon Falcon wherein the residents of Marikina were evacuated properly before the Marikina river overflowed. PAG-ASA has also utilized new technology such as Twitter and other forms of social networking so that it can easily and quickly inform the public on its latest weather bulletins.

Aside from this, credit should also be given to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) led by Sec. Dinky Soliman for always responding to disasters very quickly and efficiently. Soliman has been very visible in making sure that relief goods are distributed properly to those who need it the most and are not just given to those who have the right political connections.

In the field of transparency and public accountability, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) led by Sec. Butch Abad has been able to control the use of our congressmen and senators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), better known as the Pork Barrel. In the past administrations, the PDAF was a big source of corruption. It has been known to be used by our legislators for their personal expenses. Right now, the DBM has come up with a menu of projects and programs for which the PDAF can be used. This menu serves as a guide on where the money can be used and where it cannot be used. Our legislators are then asked to submit a breakdown of where they intend to use their PDAF which will then be approved by the DBM prior to it being released. With DBM doing this, gone are the days when the PDAF could be used by lawmakers and their families to travel abroad lavishly or to purchase luxury vehicles.

Transparency is also being advocated at the local government level wherein Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo has required all local government units to publish their budget and expenditures for their constituents to see.
Also at the DILG, there are now reforms in procurement being instituted at the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. For example, in the purchase of fire trucks, Robredo has required that a proper bidding process be followed unlike in the previous years wherein there was just one supplier whom the BFP bought the fire trucks from. The proper bidding requirement has enabled the BFP to purchase better equipped fire trucks and at the same time save more than P400 Million that could now be used to further modernize their life-saving equipment.

In the area of justice for the victims of the Maguindanao massacre, the feisty and dynamic Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has made sure that the wheels of justice move towards the immediate resolution of this case. The Supreme Court has also allowed the live coverage of the trial so that the general public can easily follow what is transpiring as the trial progresses.

Areas still needing attention

Now let us look at some areas that need the immediate attention of our President. Up until now, jueteng and illegal gambling activities continue to thrive all over the country. If our government is sincere in eradicating all forms of bribery and corruption, the President should immediately order the leaders of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to work doubly hard in arresting this growing social menace. The effects of jueteng can be felt even more during elections wherein honest leaders often lose out to jueteng-supported candidates because of vote-buying and electoral fraud.

Many civil society and media groups are also waiting for the President to prioritize the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act which he promised to do during the campaign. Passing the FOI Act sends a clear message to the Filipino people that this government has nothing to hide unlike in the previous administration where access to public information was always been curtailed. I hope that in the coming year, the President will make sure that these two major issues are addressed properly but nonetheless, we should always remember that our country’s future does not only rest in the hands of one Filipino but in each and every one of us.


Unsolicited advice to President Noynoy Aquino

April 6, 2011 1 comment

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III


Unsolicited advice to President Noynoy Aquino

by: Harvey S. Keh


Much has been said about the declining trust and satisfaction ratings of the President but aside from it being a case of not being able to communicate the administration’s accomplishments properly, I feel that President Noynoy Aquino should also come up with a landmark program or policy that would help define his administration as early as now. An example of which are three main things that are much needed by our country, the passage of a Freedom of Information (FOI) Law, the impartial implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with reforms (CARPER) and lasting peace and development in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.


Pass the FOI immediately


Aquino ran on a platform of good governance, transparency and accountability that is why many were very surprised when he didn’t make the passage of the FOI as a priority measure for our Congress to immediately act upon. The FOI will enable ordinary citizens to demand information from our government officials and agencies especially those pertaining to how public funds are being used. In fact, I am surprised that much more attention has been given to the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill which has been a divisive issue in our society whereas the FOI Bill is a more important piece of legislation that is clearly less divisive now. The only Filipinos who will most likely oppose this bill are those who have many shenanigans to hide such as the cases of former AFP Generals Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot. The Department of the Interior and Local Government led by Sec. Jesse Robredo has already asked all local government units to publish their budget and expenses for their constituents to see. This activity which Robredo himself has done during his 18 years as Mayor of Naga City will help in curbing corruption and ensuring that public funds are used efficiently to deliver basic services to the people.  I hope that the President will be able to see the importance of having an FOI law as one of the main foundations of his fight against graft and corruption in our government.


Hacienda Luisita


Many are still waiting on what Aquino will do with the case of Hacienda Luisita which has hounded him ever since he declared that he would run for President in the last elections. This will be a test case for the President since many big landowners can also try not to surrender their properties to the Department of Agrarian Reform since they can always say that it should be the President  who should first lead the way. Leadership by example is the most effective form of leadership since as they say talk is cheap. With the growing prices of food in the world market, the challenge for self-sufficiency in rice and corn production will be very critical in our fight against poverty. Just by going to the provinces, one can see that a main problem that our country continues to face is the many idle agricultural lands that are not being used. If all of these agricultural properties would be effectively distributed to farmers then I am sure that our rice and corn production would increase dramatically. By distributing and providing support services to the farmers of Hacienda Luisita, our President can showcase it as a success story in land reform.  Similar to his no wang wang policy which is now followed by all government officials, landed families will now have no choice but to also follow his example in supporting CARPER.


Postpone the ARMM elections


Finally, there is the perennial problem which is the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which has always been ruled by corrupt and traditional warlords turned politicians. The past administrations have never been able to make a dent in terms of bringing lasting development to the region. Worse, the previous administration even turned a blind eye to what was really happening in ARMM which eventually led to the tragic Maguindanao Massacre perpetuated by the Ampatuans. This culture of fear, harassment and patronage politics in ARMM are the main reasons why even if you push through with the upcoming ARMM elections, you will still end up with having the same kind of leaders in the region. This is the reason why I am fully supportive in the moves being done to push for the postponement of the ARMM elections.  How can there be genuine democracy if people cannot go out and vote for the right leaders because they fear for their lives? Another big issue is the official voters list that still needs to be cleaned up for an election to be truly representative of the real sentiments of the people. Free elections in the ARMM cannot happen if political and electoral reforms are not implemented first. It may not be the Ampatuans who will win out if elections do push through but it will be another family who will again use the funds of the ARMM as their own personal bank account while many of our Muslim brothers and sisters continue to live in hunger and poverty.


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