Caucus aimed at killing FOI bill, backers chargeBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
There is enough support to put the freedom of information (FOI) bill to a vote at the committee level even without having to hold a caucus of House leaders to discuss its contentious points, backers of the measure in and out of Congress said Monday.
The supporters made the assertion as they accused Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, public information committee chair, of delaying the vote in order to kill the bill a second time in the current 15th Congress.
The FOI bill came close to being passed in the 14th Congress, only to be thwarted by a lack of quorum.
The bill is now pending at the committee level and once it passes, it would be submitted to the plenary for debate and possible passage on second and final readings.
At least 117 lawmakers have publicly come out for the measure and joined a signature campaign calling for its passage.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello pointed out that five of the six deputy speakers as well as 19 committee members were the signatories.
Bello noted it was Speaker Feliciano Belmonte himself, during the latest House session opening, who said it was time the bill was put to a vote, along with another controversial measure, the reproductive health (RH) bill.
Malacañang had submitted its version of the bill to Congress, and some of its recommendations were included in the final measure.
Evardone should stop ignoring the bill and take advantage of the “historical momentum” to have the lawmakers tackle it in plenary, Bello said.
“Basically, we feel there is a huge momentum from the 14th to the 15th Congress to get this out. There is no viable excuse not to call a committee meeting,” said Bello in a press briefing.
Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada said he did not see the need for a caucus on a matter that was already pending in committee, especially since the committee was ready to vote on the measure.
The bill was initially set to be tackled on Aug. 7, but this was cancelled with Evardone saying House leaders would have to discuss it in caucus to iron out its contentious points in order to prevent heated debates and expedite the process when the bill is finally taken up.
Evardone on Monday denied he was trying to kill the measure, saying the claim was “baseless and misplaced.”
Meanwhile, Nepomuceno Malaluan of the Right to Know, Right Now coalition urged House leaders not to let Evardone allow the bill to languish until it expires at the end of the 15th Congress.