Fate dims for FOI bill

By Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 21 2013 06:55 PM | Updated as of Jan 22 2013 02:55 AM

FOI supporters walk out of Congress

MANILA - To show their disgust with the House of Representatives, around 50 to 70 members of the Right to Know, Right Now Coalition walked out of the gallery and protested the lower house's lack of responsiveness to the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

They said they attended the House session expecting the sponsorship of the FOI committee report so that debates can finally proceed, but they were surprised about its non-inclusion in the House's order of business.

According to Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan, today's non-inclusion of the FOI bill in the order of business is part of the lower house's delaying strategy.

They called on the House leadership to act decisively on the FOI bill and fast-track the process of debates.

Cong. Erin Tañada, who is pushing for the FOI bill, blamed Cong. Ben Evardone, chairman of the committee on public information, for the delay in the sponsorship of the bill in the plenary.

He said he hopes that the sponsorship of the bill will be included in the order of business tomorrow to start the period of debates and interpellation.

Meantime, the Makabayan bloc in the lower House, composed of 7 militant lawmakers, announced their withdrawal as co-authors of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.

They said that unless their amendments are included in the bill, they will withhold their co-authorship.

Among the provisions of the bill that, they say, need to be amended are the exemptions on national security and law enforcement.

They said these provisions seek to limit the public's access to information instead of giving the public full access to information.

Among those who withdrew authorship from the bill are Bayan Muna Reps. Teddy Casino and Neri Colmenares, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, Gabriela Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio and Kabataan party-list Bong Palatino.

Evardone was caught by surprise by the move but said he respects their decision.

Evardone is scheduled to sponsor the bill tomorrow during plenary session.