House to consolidate FOI bill versions

By Paolo Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 04 2014 05:35 AM | Updated as of Feb 04 2014 01:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Authors of various Freedom of Information (FOI) bills in the House of Representatives have agreed to consolidate their respective versions and undertake moves to expedite the passage of the much-awaited legislation.

This was prompted by what the authors said was the “excruciatingly slow” work on the 19 versions of the FOI bill pending in the House committee on public information chaired by Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge Almonte, who has held only two public hearings since the 16th Congress started in July last year.

Almonte, after much prodding from the authors, agreed last year to form the technical working group (TWG) that would consolidate the bills but as of January the group has yet to meet.

Authors of the FOI bills include DIWA party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay, Dinagat Island Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Akbayan party-list Reps. Walden Bello and Barry Gutierrez, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, Ang Nars party-list Rep. Leah Paquiz, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo, Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting, and Marikina City Rep. Marcelino Teodoro.

The lawmakers met last week to find ways to speed up passage of the FOI bill while waiting for Almonte to convene the TWG.

Almonte has also reportedly refused to have a vice chairman help him.

Tambunting said the version of the previous Congresses on the FOI bill should be adopted in this Congress.

“We have to act for the immediate passage of the FOI bill because it would also help improve the image of the House of Representatives,” Tambunting said.

Castelo said an FOI Law is the best answer to stop corruption in the government.

He also said the authors agreed to treat “right of reply” proposals, which is a different subject matter also pending in the panel, as separate bills.

Some lawmakers have been pushing for the inclusion of the “right of reply“ provision in the FOI bill, which allows the subjects of negative media reports to air response with the same prominence as the one they were previously mentioned in.