House panel to meet anew on FOI bill on Nov. 27
MANILA, Philippines — Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone on Friday said that the Freedom of Information Bill would be the sole agenda of the House of Representatives’ committee on public information’s meeting on November 27.
Evardone, chairman of the said panel, said in a text message that the FOI Bill “will be our only agenda” when it reconvenes. The said hearing would be the controversial measure’s third hearing for this year.
Advocates accused Evardone and Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino of killing the FOI Bill in the 15th Congress upon hearing of the committee’s failure to put the consolidated version of the FOI Bill to a vote earlier this week.
They said Antonino deliberately delayed discussions on the FOI Bill by insisting on getting answers as to why his version was not included in the consolidated version. His version featured a provision on the right of reply.
FOI proponent Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, chairman of the technical working group which came up with the consolidated version of the measure, argued that the inclusion of the provision was the prerogative of the mother committee.
But Evardone said it was “totally unfair” they were being accused of derailing the bill’s approval. “I can’t stop members of the committee and authors from discussing issues before my committee.”
“They must remember that we are a deliberative body. We are in a democracy. We are not under a dictatorship,” he said.
But FOI Bill co-author Akbayan Partylist Representative Walden Bello believes that the passage of the proposed measure was up to Evardone. “It really depends on the chair. If he wants a vote, he can do it. If he doesn’t, it won’t happen.”
“He will only have himself to blame if there’s no vote. Committee chairs are super powerful. I know that since I am COWA [House committee on overseas workers affairs] chair,” he said.
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