Belmonte pushes for Right of Reply bill

By Jenny Reyes, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 10 2014 04:15 PM | Updated as of Jun 11 2014 12:15 AM

MANILA - With allegations of corruption being hurled left and right, House Speaker Sonny Belmonte cited the need to pass the Right of Reply Bill.

Belmonte said lawmakers who have been implicated in the pork barrel scam are already viewed in a negative light, whether or not the allegations against them are based on strong evidence.

According to him, the various lists of politicians who supposedly pocketed public funds should not be interpreted as Bible truth. But he said these could work as leads to be verified with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) or the Commission on Audit (COA).

With the Right of Reply Bill, Belmonte said politicians could be given a chance to defend themselves in print and broadcast media.

"We happen to be in a profession where to be mentioned in the media is almost like being condemned," he said.

He said this is why politicians should always be meticulous and extra-vigilant when it comes to public funds.

The Right of Reply Bill is pending at the committee level at the House of Representatives.

Although Belmonte said it is on the list of bills they hope to pass, it is not included in Malacañang's list of priority bills.

First on this list is the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Belmonte, however, said they cannot proceed since Malacañang has yet to submit its draft to the lower House.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission previously said it will send the draft to the lower House in July, when session resumes.

Malacañang has also asked the lower House to prioritize the Freedom of Information Bill which has been passed on third and final reading but is stuck at the committee level, which is still struggling with consolidating the 19 versions of the FOI Bill.

Belmonte proudly said Congress has passed up to 24 bills of national importance since they resumed session in May.

This includes the amendment to the MARINA charter, the extension of the corporate life of the Philippine National Railways, and amendments to the anti-illegal drugs law.

There are also four bicameral conference committee hearings ongoing.

Belmonte said despite the scandals hounding both Congresses, they continue with carrying out their mandate.