Rody: FOI to be an executive order
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - May 11, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – As part of his commitment to transparency, winning presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday he would push for the immediate approval of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act as soon as he is proclaimed.

Duterte said he would allow the public – through the mass media – greater access to government documents to ensure that every transaction is aboveboard.

He stressed he does not even have to wait for legislation to ensure transparency in government as he is willing to order executive offices and local governments “to open up documents” for scrutiny.

He said local government officials should not be afraid of allowing public access to documents – that is if they’re not hiding anything.

The presumptive president also urged the media to be vigilant and to expose anomalous or questionable transactions in government. But he warned media members allegedly on the take to shut up.

He said he is prepared to do “anything that makes the Filipinos comfortable” and shun what makes them “uncomfortable.”

Duterte’s spokesman Peter Laviña said Duterte is ready to push for FOI as he believes transparency is a key to progress.

Transparency, Laviña told The STAR, “is a key policy” in Davao City. The FOI bill is still pending in Congress.

The Duterte camp also questioned Malacañang’s pronouncement that his landslide victory does not mean the defeat of the administration or its daang matuwid platform.

Duterte’s legal team head Vitaliano Aguirre II said the presidential election last Monday was a referendum on the administration of President Aquino.

“This victory really is an expression of protest against the present government. The people have lost the patience they kept for many years,” Aguirre told The STAR over the phone.

Aguirre, who is reportedly being eyed by Duterte as his justice secretary, stressed that the mayor has criticized in his campaign the performance of the current administration, especially on issues of public transportation, disaster response and combating crime.

“He has promised change in governance and that really resonated well with the people as evidently shown in overwhelming votes he got,” the lawyer pointed out.

For this reason, Aguirre explained that part of the mandate of the coming leadership is to exact accountability on officials of the outgoing administration involved in anomalies.

He said Duterte believes such problems in governance are deeply embedded that they need strong political will to be addressed.

“In the past 30 years, those elected in power would make so many promises during campaign. But once they win, those promises are forgotten. This system has not changed and this is what he wants to change,” he added.

With his proclamation just around the corner, Duterte has appealed for “healing” and reconciliation following the divisive and bitter campaign.

Aguirre also appealed for understanding for the offensive language of Duterte, whom he has known since their law school years in San Beda College in Manila back in the late 1960s.

“He is very sincere in really wanting to change our country despite his foul language. You have to look behind that. He was just saying those words because he is angry,” he explained.

Caught by surprise

The lawyer also admitted that the landslide victory of Duterte actually caught them by surprise.

“In our first convention we knew we had a fighting chance and he could win, but we never expected that the support of the people would be this overwhelming. I saw the people in the campaign and I must say that the numbers were really surprising,” Aguirre bared.

He said the figures for Duterte were higher than expected, considering the last-minute efforts to destroy his reputation, including the allegations of hidden wealth hurled by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Given limited resources, Aguirre said that Duterte’s persona and platforms were the only assets they relied on.

“Although we don’t have the funds, the big organizations and political machinery, one thing that worked well for us was that we had a very sellable and popular candidate,” he explained. 

“Our campaign was full of volunteerism because we really did not have funds to match the other candidates,” he added.   

Meanwhile, the people of Mindanao are thrilled that one of their own will for the first time lead the nation as president, winning senatorial candidate Juan Miguel Zubiri said yesterday.       

“Politics aside, this is a proud and emotional moment for all of Mindanao,” he said.

Zubiri, who is from Bukidnon, ran as an independent but Duterte adopted him in his senatorial ticket.

“We are very grateful for the trust voters have bestowed. We will work indefatigably in the Senate, so we can promptly craft measures meant to forcefully create jobs and new opportunities for Filipino families to achieve a higher standard of living,” he said.

“Filipinos voted for strong action, not politics as usual, in Monday’s elections,” Zubiri said.

“Our people clearly want government, including the Senate, to get more work done faster – toward enabling every Filipino family to enjoy a superior quality of life,” he said.

“We have high hopes that members of the next Senate can set aside partisan politics and work together to solve the country’s pressing challenges, especially the lack of gainful employment,” he said.

Re-elected Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada also said Duterte’s landslide victory is a strong indication of the people’s clamor for peace and order.

Estrada said he hopes to meet one-on-on-one with Duterte.

“I can silently give him suggestions. I hope he makes a strong man and do all what he says. I hope that we can talk to each other. I’m willing to give him advice silently,” Estrada said.

He said it was the lack of peace and order that stymied the country’s progress. – With Edu Punay, Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano

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