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FOI, antitrust bills top House agenda

/ 04:50 AM December 28, 2012

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.: FOI, antitrust bills could pass ARNOLD ALMACEN

MANILA, Philippines—The House of Representatives will try to focus on the freedom of information (FOI) bill and the antitrust bill in the nine session days it has left before it breaks for the election campaign period.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Thursday said the House was reviewing the measures it could pass early next year before it adjourns in February ahead of the May polls.

“We have the FOI bill before us, we have the antitrust bill before us and a few other bills. We will see if we can successfully tackle them in the remaining days,” Belmonte said.

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The House is currently on a monthlong break and will resume its session on Jan. 21. It will adjourn on Feb. 8 for the campaign period.

The FOI bill has yet to be sponsored on the floor, which means the period of debate and interpellation could not yet begin. These steps are necessary before a measure could be put to a second reading vote.

The FOI bill would make the government more transparent by allowing citizens who demand access to official documents and transactions, but with certain limitations, like those pertaining to national security matters.

Several lawmakers are expected to propose amendments to the measure, which are deemed to be contentious, such as a right of reply provision and expanding the scope of the bill to cover private entities.

The bill has not been certified as urgent by President Aquino and the House has no intention of asking him to certify it as such. But Belmonte has said he supports the measure.

As for the antitrust bill—which would penalize anticompetitive agreements and mergers as well as the abuse of a dominant position—it is near a second-reading vote.

The bill was actually approved on second reading on Aug. 8, 2011, but its approval was retracted a few days later, on Aug. 15, after some lawmakers said they wanted to interpellate its sponsors some more as well as introduce additional amendments.

Belmonte earlier said he saw no reason for the House not to pass the antitrust bill.

TAGS: antirust bill, Congress, Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, House of Representatives, Philippines
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