For want of conference room, FOI bill is in ICU
The freedom of information (FOI) bill is in danger of expiring in the House of Representatives due to scheduling delays, with one of its main proponents likening the measure to a patient in the intensive care unit.
Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III noted that the bill had been reset for hearing on Nov. 13 from its initial October schedule, and that throughout the year there had been only one hearing held on the measure.
The bill has yet to pass the committee level and supporters are worried there will not be enough time to pass it on third and final reading before Congress adjourns for the 2013 election campaign period in late March next year.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the committee on public information, said the Nov. 13 schedule was final, adding that there was plenty of time to pass the bill.
Hearing schedule delay
Earlier, he had said the lack of an available conference room had prevented him from scheduling a hearing this month.
“Representative Evardone placed the FOI in the ICU, on life support, gasping for breath,” Tañada said Thursday.
He said that should the committee approve the measure on Nov. 13, there would be only a narrow window for the bill to be voted on and passed by the plenary before the end of the year.
The bill could beat the December deadline if Speaker Feliciano Belmonte allows it to be discussed in the plenary together with the reproductive health (RH) bill, Tañada said.
Aside from being final, Evardone said the Nov. 13 date had already been cleared with and approved by Belmonte. He said he would send out the invitations to the hearing to its various stakeholders.
Sought for his reaction to Tañada’s statement, Evardone said he remained hopeful the FOI bill would be passed into law.
Plenty of time
“We still have plenty of time—remember the 15th Congress still has up to June next year,” he said.
He said his committee could come out with a report after one or two hearings. The bill could be passed by the plenary before the Congress Christmas break, he added.
The FOI bill would give the public access to government records and documents, making its transactions transparent in order to battle corruption and promote good governance.
One of its proponents, Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello, earlier suggested that a push from Malacañang, as well as House leaders, would ensure that Congress would act on the bill, which Mr. Aquino during his campaign for the presidency had promised would be passed.
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