MANILA, Philippines—The chairman of the House committee on public information urged the House leadership to call for a caucus on the Freedom of Information Bill in anticipation of intense debates on the Freedom of Information Bill.
Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone told reporters in a press conference on Tuesday that he would try to urge Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to call for a caucus to discuss the contentious measure.
“Ang sa akin, maganda sana kung may caucus (For me, it’s better if there’s caucus),” he said, pointing out that such a discussion of the bill would help determine its fate in plenary.
He expected the debates on the FOI Bill to be as intense as those on the Reproductive Health Bill which was why it was important for the majority to meet to discuss their stand on the measure.
The House committee on rules will meet at 2 p.m. and Evardone hopes that the FOI Bill will finally be included in the session’s agenda.
Advocates of the FOI Bill walked out of the plenary on Monday after learning the bill was not a part of the day’s Order of Business.
The measure’s main proponent, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, said that the bill was not included in the agenda due to Evardone’s failure to submit the committee report on time.
Although he understood and respected the Makabayan bloc’s earlier withdrawal of support and co-authorship to the FOI Bill, Tañada said that the exceptions in the measure such as those on national security or defense were valid. He said that these were also found in the best FOI laws in other countries.
Seven militant partylist legislators withdrew their support for the bill on Monday, hitting at the present version’s leaning towards the version from Malacañang due to its exceptions.
“This is the same bill that Rep. Teddy Casiño and Rep. Raymond Palatino voted for when it was passed at the Public Information committee, chaired by my colleague Rep. Evardone. So why the sudden flip flop?” asked the House leader.