MANILA, Philippines — The Freedom of Information Bill is back in critical condition, its main proponent deplored on Thursday.
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III in a text message to reporters, said that the FOI Bill was now back in the intensive care unit (ICU) after it failed to be tackled at the plenary Wednesday, the last session day before the House of Representatives went on its Christmas break.
When asked why the FOI Bill was not taken up, House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II said that the ratification of the controversial Reproductive Health Bill took the spotlight Wednesday night.
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, a co-author of the FOI Bill, said that another issue was the uncertainty of when the House delegation for the bicameral conference committee on the RH Bill would be back. He said seven sponsorship speeches were lined up for the FOI Bill.
“If the FOI were to be introduced after the RH ratification, there was fear that few people would remain to hear sponsorship speeches and even the Speaker’s closing speech,” he said.
True enough, Gonzales said that many of the legislators present during their last session wanted to leave right after the RH Bill bicameral report was ratified.
Despite having little time left, Bello was confident that the FOI Bill would be “introduced first thing next year and there will be a sharp debate on amendments.”
“I am still hopeful that we would get it to third reading before the session ends in February but a certification by the President as urgent would guarantee its passage,” he added.
Lawmakers resume session on January 21 next year and Tañada said that he really hoped the FOI Bill could finally be tackled by then.
“We are running out of time with nine session days left before the campaign begins,” he said.