MANILA, Philippines — The Freedom of Information Bill will now need President Benigno Aquino III’s certification, after the House of Representatives failed to tackle it during the first three session days this year, proponents of the bill said on Wednesday.
Akbayan Representative Walden Bello and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said that while they originally felt that the measure could do without the President certifying it as urgent, the case was now different with only six session days left.
Proponents of the bill, which seeks to uphold transparency in the government, have been eagerly waiting for their chance to sponsor the bill at the plenary for three session days now but have been unable to do so.
This time, the delay was due to heated talks on whether the US Navy ought to be held liable for the damage caused by its USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef.
On Monday, the day the lower chamber resumed session after a long holiday break, the FOI Bill was not tackled because it was not part of the Order of Business.
On Tuesday, the insistence of Davao del Sur Representative Marc Douglas Cagas on a parochial concern proved stronger than the clamor for the FOI Bill due to the apparent lack of quorum.
Bello said that he was certain that the presence of a quorum would have allowed the bill’s supporters to prevent any delays.
Roll call has however been brushed aside during the three session days and the FOI Bill’s principal author, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tanada III himself on Tuesday admitted that the lack of quorum was apparent.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has earlier assured FOI Bill authors that text reminders would be sent to urge lawmakers to attend session.
But Bello remained optimistic and said that even if the fight to get the bill passed was “getting tight…we’ll still push to get Presidential certification of the bill as urgent.”
“As the Speaker says, it’s in the last three days of the session that things come together,” he said.