Absenteeism imperils FOI bill in House

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Proponents of the freedom of information (FOI) bill are worried that the expected absenteeism of lawmakers next year would derail debates on the measure and its passage in the House of Representatives before it goes on break for the May elections.

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III said the House has no recourse but to act on the FOI bill since the Senate has already passed its own version. He wondered, however, whether the nine remaining session days next year would be enough to see the measure through to the end.

Congress is expected to go on an early break in February next year in time for the campaign period for the midterm elections in May.

Tañada said the question is whether lawmakers would be returning to the Batasang Pambansa to attend sessions when Congress reopens on Jan. 21. If there would be enough warm bodies on the floor, he sees no problem for the bill.

 

Danger signs

 

But in the absence of a quorum, he said the only chance for the measure to move forward is for the House leadership to allow the sessions to continue for the debates to be recorded.

“These are the danger signs, whether people would be coming to the sessions,” he said.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, another coauthor of the measure, said the absenteeism of lawmakers, which leads to a lack of quorum, is a “perennial problem of an election year.”

Lawmakers are expected to be busy with preparations for the election campaign next year. In an earlier interview, Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II said he expected fewer lawmakers to show up in the January and February sessions.

But Baguilat said there are still ways to address this issue.

He said lawmakers could be prompted to attend sessions if the House leadership would exercise its political will to get them to show up. Another thing that could push lawmakers to arrive in the plenary is a strong public sentiment in support of the FOI bill, he said.

Palace certification

A certification from President Aquino may also be needed to “clinch the FOI passage,” he added.

Mr. Aquino had supported the FOI bill as far back as the 2010 presidential campaign period.

Earlier, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said he was not going to ask the President to certify the FOI bill as urgent. Belmonte said he wants it to go through the regular legislative process, similar to what was done with the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.

Mr. Aquino only certified the RH bill as urgent after the House passed it on second reading.

Belmonte also expects the FOI bill to be put to a second reading vote in January next year.

But the FOI bill has yet to be sponsored on the floor, even before debates and period of amendments could begin.

Back in ICU

 

The speech of its designated sponsor, public information committee chair Ben Evardone, was supposed to be delivered last week. But a lack of quorum on Tuesday, and the ratification of the bicameral conference report on the RH bill during the last session on Wednesday, derailed the bill’s introduction on the floor.

Evardone earlier said he was ready to sponsor the bill and has prepared his speech, wherein he will urge colleagues to approve the measure.

Tañada yesterday said with the constant delays it has faced, the FOI bill is “back in the ICU (intensive care unit),” noting the lack of committee hearings in 2012.

Tañada said he was ready to help Evardone defend the bill on the floor when it is questioned by colleagues.

Among the contentious points expected to be raised are the inclusion of the right of reply provision in the FOI bill and the inclusion of the private sector in its coverage.

LP has no position

 

The President’s Liberal Party has no position yet on the FOI bill, but its leaders have spoken of supporting the measure, Tañada noted.

The FOI bill is expected to promote transparency and accountability in government, by removing the shroud of secrecy covering its transactions.

It aims to make public access to government data easier. It adopts a government policy of full public disclosure of transactions involving public interest, subject to certain limitations such as information relating to national security and defense, the disclosure of which may imperil the country.

Originally posted: 11:25 pm | Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

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  • zeroko

    We have a Filipino-Chinese government. It is asking for the star if you think they will approve the FOI. These greedy bunch has been insulting the Filipinos for so long. It is time that we vote a Filipino in the coming election.

  • palakasantayo

    Are those re-electionists drawing salary while campaigning? If they are, then they should attend all scheduled sessions and campaign in their free time. I think those absentee lawmakers are against this FOI because they are afraid their secrets being discovered.

    • popeyee

      Halos lahat ng mga bogok sa lower house are against the FOI bill. Ginagawa lang nilang dahilan ang midterm election..

  • blainz

    Absenteeism again… Why does Congress need the president to crack the whip just so they can obtain quorum? If they’re not interested in doing their job, then they shouldn’t run for office in the first place.

    I remember Comelec – when it delisted Mikey’s AGP party-list – cited lack of performance as one of the reasons for disqualification. Perhaps Comelec could apply the same standards to all these absentee congressmen.

  • qwerpoiu4321

    our taxes are being used to pay you to work, not campaign for election. Do your job! Congress should be run like a regular office: (pork barrel per year) / (number of days in congress session per year) = daily pay. For every day a congressman is absent, that daily pay should be deducted from their payroll

  • mamer2

    Students, who pay their way into schools by way of Registration and Tuition Fees could be expelled from school for absenteeism.
    The same should apply to members of Congress, both Houses…, for the same offense.

    • Loggnat

      Maybe those members of Congress that were absent during the session should be fined and the fine subtracted from their Pork barrel for the year or next year if the the allocation had been distributed to each members. Divide the total amount of the annual pork barrel by the number of days the Congress will be in session for the year. The total annual fine will equal to the amount of pork barrel for the year if the member of was absent in all the session.  If the member is absent 50% of the session, he/she will be fined 50% of his/her annual pork barrel and so on and so forth. An absentee list or a daily session head count and attendee list should be made public in the website of Congress for every citizen to see.

  • kalikasanipagtanggol

    POLITIKO PALA ABSENT: absenteeism? sino ako? work related ang mga pag-alis ko kasama na ang sa US yung mga constituents ko na pumunta ng abroad pina-follow up ko lang ang proyekto……minsan nagkataon lang na duon kami nag meeting sa las vegas na kung saan may laban si pacquiao, pero hindi nangangahulugan sinadya ko yun………

  • kilawon(the return)

     yup! busy for next year’s election with their millions of pork barrel coming from taxpayers money!….why would these tongresman pass the bill?, they know this bill is like playing fire!….promoting transparency and ACCOUNTABILITY are  not in their vocabulary !

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/36O4ZGE5JY24XE4XQOXBM6O4WE Klepto

    Dto talaga magaling at masikap mga pulitiko ng Pilipinas, kung paano ma re-elected, pero sa trabaho walang alam kundi ang iyot at tsupa lang.

  • Palku Kha

    hindi hadlang ang absenteeism sa FOI bill kung gustuhin ni Noynoy na maipasa.bakit yong ibang batas madaling ma ipasa pag gusto nya?kagaya ng RH bill. ang kasabihan,kung gusto mo,maraming paraan… kung ayaw mo,maraming dahilan…isa lang ang masasabi dyan, may mga tinatago kayong baho! takot kayong mga politiko na sisingaw ang baho nyo pag maging ganap na batas ang FOI…

  • mekeni62

    mga takot sa FOI kasi maraming bahong itinatago…..from Malacanang pababa.

  • Bengatibo

    If FOI is more important than RH Bill, then Congress should be able to pass it, however, kanya- kanyang vested interest so hindi maipapasa ito. Why not pass a bill regarding absenteeism of Representatives in Congress. Mr. House Speaker, crack your whip so that all congressman will toe the line. Masyado kang mabait! Ginagawang dahilan pag-ayaw bumoto o ayaw ipasa ang bill para hindi magkaroon nang quorum. Malamang isisi nanaman kay Pnoy kaya hindi naipasa!! Kawawang Pnoy, bagsakan na lang nang sisi. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BV6DWTSUHKJGFANJJ5P3WPPTQM Paul

    wala kasing pera sa FOI….
     

  • virgoyap

    FOI is a very important bill next to RH bill. If ever lawmakers don’t consider this as an urgent bill most likely it’s because they have many things to hide. Congressmen be transparent pass the FOI bill asap.

  • tata_boy

    Bayan, masdan ninyo kung ano ang gagawin ng mga tongressmen. WALA, bakit? Natatakot silang mabisto ang mga katarantaduhan ma kanilang ginagawa at indirectly, apektado ang pork barrel dito.

  • Benito Juarez

    Many of the so-called elected officials are suspected of hiding their flaws – stealing, lying, etc.,  including the so-called enlightened have succumbed to the glitters of $. I rather vote for a wicked whose virtue is to tell the truth.  

  • Rovingmoron

    Why can”t Congress craft a law that will make it unethical and illegal for lawmakers to be absent during a plenary that calls for votation on a significant bill such as the FOI? Right now, enactment of the FOI bill can be jeopardized if majority of the lawmakers will not attend the session before 2012 ends.

  • Yobhtron

    Majority of Tongressmen and Senatongs are corrupt that’s why FOI will never be enacted into law.

  • speedstream2

    Is this surprising? If it becomes law, wouldn’t the FOI bill shine the light on dark places where light is not welcome? Why then would this piece of legislation be given priority? Wouldn’t it be more fun to just keep it in the back burner?

  • buttones

    It would be of no surprise to anybody that Congressmen would not turn up to make a quorum for the FOI Bill- it happened last time during GMA’s term.

    Mr. Aquino has no interest in whatsoever, to quote him on this matter

    ““You know, having a Freedom of Information Act sounds so good and noble—[but] there’s a tendency of getting information and not really utilizing it for proper purposes,”

    “If I may just add, all you have to do is read our newspapers everyday,” he said. “And I think you will agree that there is… nobody can state a fact exactly the same in all of these newspapers. An opinion commenting on the fact is OK, but an opinion masquerading as a fact does not do anyone any good.”

    I know the comments are inarticulate, but that’s what he said- but I’m sure we can all agree that the message, albeit somewhat garbled and almost incomprehensible – is that Aquino has zip all interest in FOI Bills and all that sort of nonsense..

    Can a democracy actually operate properly with no Freedom of Information? Well the general consensus of opinion from democratic nations is NO, in PH it is a resounding YES it can, and there is no need to give access of information to the hoi polloi, there job is to work and not ask questions and rest assured that the country is in the best of hands and everything is going to be alright….[one day] and all that sort of thing

  • kapatad

    walang pera sa FOI. di tulad ng RH bill may perang tatangapin ang gobyerno bilang bahagi sa sale ng mg condom, IUD;s at pildoras Siempre, galing iyan sa mga manufacturer ng mga contraceptives. Kung may pera sa FOI. baka ucertified as urgent din iyan.

  • buttones

    Because no Congressman is going to support a Law that penalizes a Congressman….in the same way that meaningful dynastical Laws will never be passed- it’s actually political suicide….

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PRDGZHO73F5SCBMJO3BGCPXR6E Nilo C

    Anong klasing mga Honorable Congressman/Congresswoman kung parate nalang absent. Nagsasayang ng Pera ng Bayan??? Pera pera na la-ang.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/L6TTZGNCMP4XWQQCNIX65PTNJM Ciano

    kung tapat o taos puso lang sana ang namumuno sa Bansa natin,siguro matagal ng na ipasa ang FOI bill.kaya hanggang panaginip na lang tayo na aangat ang buhay natin dahil hanggang ngayon namamayagpag pa ang mga kurap natin mga politiko.ang sinasabi ni Noynoy na TUWID NA DAAN ay isang panloloko lamang sa taong bayan…

  • http://twitter.com/talib0218 mar

    sana yong pork barrel base na lang sa attendance ng mga kumag na to, bawat absent babawasan ung pork barrel.

  • Seaflip

    No need for FOI Act, money talks.

  • Htee

    If these congressmen want a good campaign, just show up and be felt at deliberation session…people will vote for you if you’re doing your job….wala pang gastos kung sisipot…kaso mga supot kasi…
    Kung ayaw nyo sa FOI sabihin nyo lang kung bakit…tapos.
    Tapos rin kayo sa amin.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_M6UL2UG4OGTMCLSYGB5MVJ7USE InSearchOfTruth

    bitayin na lang ang mga kongresista na hindi umaatend ng session.  wala silang pwedeng idahilan kung bakit sila lumiliban.  ang trabaho nila ay magpasa ng batas sa loob ng kongreso at hindi mag p u t a kung saan saan!

  • kilabot

    no, not absenteeism but apathy. 
    erin should get the cue from noykapon bumping him out of the lp senatoriables; 

  • artz555

    After congratulating Pres. Aquino and the PH Congress for a job well done in passing the long delayed Sin Tax and RH Bills, these elected officials should work after the holidays for the passage of the other  equally important bill, the FOI ( Freedom of information) Act. The FOI bill in which  anyone can ask the government for any information ( except those that could endanger the security and defense of the country ), could make the government more open, prevent potential graft, corruption or wastes in government, and therefore contribute to faster development of PH into the future.    

    Considering the hard to eradicate graft and corruption in PH ( which continues to hamper smooth  progress in PH for so long ), the FOI act, which is already being implemented in more advanced countries like the USA,  Japan and Europe in some form or another, could be the best antidote or tool  the government could use to slowly eradicate waste, corruption, and inefficiencies in PH as we know them today.

    One way to remove the obstacles of passing the FOI bill, is to find out who among the elected officials are against the FOI bill and want to continue the wastes of graft and corruption in the country. Furthermore, the people should elect only those candidates in the next elections, who are in favor for the FOI bill becoming law,  and reject those candidates who are against the FOI bill.

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