Press Release
May 31, 2010

Transcript of Interview at Batasan of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile

Freedom of Information Bill

Q: Sir, galing kami sa presscon ni Speaker Nograles, sabi after the proclamation daw ng president malalagay sa agenda ang Freedom of Information?

SP: We are going on a sine die on Friday because we wanted to extend the calendar of Congress to June 11. Under the Constitution, we have to go on recess not less than 30 days, excluding Sundays and holidays before the next Congress opens. We counted the number of days and the latest that we can adjourn is June 11. When the Majority Floor Leader of the Senate talked to the Majority Floor Leader of the House, they mentioned to us that they want the sine die to happen on Friday. As far as the Freedom of Information Bill is concerned, we have done it already in the Senate and it is pending in the House. That is why we asked this morning, a collective sense of the Senate, requesting our counterpart in the House, to ratify the bicameral conference of this bill. I have not really read totally the law because I was too busy to go over it. Our action in this was many, many months back. My understanding is, anyway, this Freedom of Information Bill is prospective in application. It will not go beyond backwards in time, otherwise, we will go all the way to the time of Quezon, or during the time of the Governor General. Second, it is an implementation of a Constitutional command for us to adopt a Freedom of Information Law and I think that if we do this, our desire for a straightforward and honest government will be accomplished because then people will have to be very, very careful and circumspect in performing their work in government and transacting official business, and in spending the money of the people.

Q: Sir, are you saying that this 14th Congress has to ratify the Bicam report on or before June 4?

SP: It should be because I don't think we can go beyond. There's no more legislative body that will ratify it after June 4.

Q: Sir, do you think you can talk to Nograles?

SP: I will try to talk to him.

Q: Will you threaten him?

SP: No. You have to understand, we have an inter-parliamentary courtesy and that is why I could not on my own, lobby or talk to the other members of the House. It was the Senate as a collective body that was requesting for an action given the fact that the Senate already did its part.

Q: Kasi, sir, sabi ni Speaker na they have to transform themselves into a legislative body before they act on it. So, mamaya 4:00 pm, mag-open and close daw, so sabi niya, baka pwede naman in between the open and close, pwede nila isingit.

SP: Madali lang naman 'yun, ira-ratify lang.

Q: Kailangan daw ng quorum.

SP: 'Yun lang ang problema nila.

Q: This is a suspended session from last Monday. When they agreed, still there should be a quorum?

SP: You have to have a quorum.

Q: So kailangan within this week if they are serious about it?

SP: Our legislative calendar will end June 4. We cannot accept anymore bills. We can continue, however, to meet and finish the canvass of votes for president and vice president.

Q: Is it possible to introduce the ratification of this bill while you are doing your canvassing work?

SP: No, that is a joint session. They have to do this as a separate House.

Q: According to Speaker Nograles, it is difficult, he is committed to finish the canvassing, and then call the House to a session as a legislative body and ratify it. We are not clear if today's session is actually a legislative session.

SP: Well, they are going to meet, I think this afternoon, just like what we did this morning and then to suspend the session up to June 4, just like what we did. They can also do it on June 4.

Q: Is there any other impediment to the ratification of this bill?

SP: I do not want to say anything. As I said, I have to maintain our relationship with the House.

Q: So you will leave it to the best judgment and wisdom of these Congressmen?

SP: Yes.

Q: So the resolution of the Senate, has it been communicated to the Speaker and the House?

SP: It will be forwarded to them today.

Q: Communications are supposed to be read before the Session?

SP: No, just forwarded to the Secretary General.

Q: Speaker Nograles told us a while ago that he wanted this to be on the agenda after proclamation. Is that possible?

SP: Maybe because last Friday, we were talking about postponing the sine die to June 11. So maybe he thought, I do not know if he conferred with his Majority Floor Leader. This morning we communicated in the House and asked them if they would agree to a proposal that we postpone our sine die to June 11 but the Majority Floor Leader said no, we will go through the original legislative calendar which is June 4.

Q: What are the implications of this bill if the House fails to ratify it? Meaning, what will happen and how will the Senators look at it?

SP: I think this is the work of the 14th Congress, offhand, I would say that it would have to be revised.

Q: That's right. So, how would the Senators feel about it?

SP: We can pass it again in the Senate.

Q: Both panels passed it unanimously? The panel of the House and the panel of the Senate?

SP: I guess so, yes, that's why we ratified it. It is a done deal as far as we are concerned.

Q: So the obstacles to ratification in the House, are there really difficulties?

SP: I do not know. As far as I know, I do not know what is the reason, what is the status of the House vote. It is a question whether everybody agrees, or some people are objecting.

Q: But in the Senate, you actually managed to do it even with some turmoil within the Chamber.

SP: Yes. It was unanimously agreed even this morning, the resolution, everybody agreed.

Q: You can convince Speaker Nograles?

SP: I do not know, he is my counterpart but he has his own mind.

Q: It is not the media who is lobbying for this.

SP: I was surprised, because when the resolution was being drafted, and they told me how long it took to pass this bill, more than a decade? My God.

Q: Can the people sue the Congress for failing to act on a Constitutionally guaranteed right?

SP: I think we owe it to the Filipino people to give them a chance to have access to government transactions and policy decisions.

Q: Sir, di ba pag na-ratify ito, ito ang legacy ni Nograles?

SP: Well, it's a legacy of Congress.

Q: Ano po ang advice ninyo?

SP: You are a powerful group. Actually, you can reach out to them.

Q: Actually, we are assisting the effort because it is more than media, ordinary citizens could get things faster. What we need is a Senate President and the Senators to help us convince the House.

SP: The Senate President is not so powerful. He has to persuade, argue and be nice to people.

Q: Precisely, that could be your strength sir, as the Leadership.

SP: It is like this, I do not know the pressures, the reasons for his reticence, his position. I will talk to him and find out.

Q: He was saying, after proclamation, that's when we can take it up in the agenda.

SP: Di bale, ako ang mag-sponsor. Next round, I will be the one to handle the sponsorship of the Bill if it will not pass through this time. I wish, I hope, it will pass through.

Q: Meron ka pa naman four days.

SP: I will talk to him and appeal to him, that's all I can do.

Q: You think he could still do it?

SP: They can do it this afternoon or on the last day. The trouble is that unlike in our case, we mustered our quorum because we are a small house. We are only 24, although right now effectively we are 21. So this morning I had 11 Senators. We had a quorum. Four Senators are outside of the country, we count the quorum on the basis of the people who are inside. In the case of the House, it is a big house, it is very difficult to gather all of them. Mind you, I do not know how ____ their rules regarding this position on the Bicameral Conference committee reports. In our case, it is a matter of raising hands; I do not know how they do it here.

Q: So kayang-kaya, sir, sa tingin ninyo?

SP: Pwede rin.

Q: June 4 is the closing day of the Congress?

SP: June 4, Friday will be our last. That is the legislative calendar. Up to Friday, we can still take up measures if there are pending matters. In our case, we disposed all pending matters, we read on third reading, one resolution and nine bills.

Q: Kaninang umaga 'yan. Eh di pwede gawin ngayon ng House.

SP: Eh kung wala silang quorum, 'yun ang problema. Kaya we suspend session every day. We do not adjourn, because when you adjourn, you make a roll-call and if you do not have a quorum, you cannot do business.

Q: That's why they suspended last Monday?

SP: 'Yan ang problema ng mga presiding officers, quorum.

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