Evardone: There's still time to approve FOI bill

By Eva Visperas, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 16 2012 01:11 AM | Updated as of Nov 16 2012 07:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone is hopeful that the committee on public information, which he chairs, could approve the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill on Nov. 27.

“There’s still time to approve it,” he said.

“There are only four remaining contentious issues. If we can resolve these in our next meeting, then we can vote on the bill.”

Evardone said the four remaining contentious issues are:

• The proposed inclusion of a right of reply;

• Safeguards against the exercise of the people’s right to information;

• Exemptions from disclosure of official information and documents relating to national defense and security and national interest; and

• Inclusion of private corporations and other entities in the coverage of the FOI bill.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino wants the bill to include a right of reply provision, which would compel media organizations to allot to the replies of aggrieved parties the same space or airtime and prominence as the perceived adverse stories.

 Authors of the FOI bill are proposing that the right of reply be contained in another draft legislation, since the FOI bill deals with giving the public and the media greater and easier access to state documents.

On Tuesday, Antonino questioned how the technical working group of Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada was able to consolidate at least 15 FOI bills.

He accused Tañada of “rejecting” his bill and “giving preference” to Malacañang’s inputs on exemptions.

Tañada said his panel considered Antonino’s FOI version, but that it could not decide on his right of reply proposal as this was within the committee’s jurisdiction.

After sparking what seemed to be an interminable debate, Antonino moved for adjourning the meeting by invoking the House rules, which ban committees from continuing to meet when the chamber is already in session.