Tanada offers solution to expedite FOI bill debates
MANILA, Philippines — If finding a conference room is what is delaying the House committee on public information from tackling the controversial Freedom of Information Bill, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III may just have the solution for panel members.
In a media forum on Tuesday, the Quezon lawmaker said that he has “reserved a room for a committee hearing that the public information committee may use if they want to.”
He said that the reservation was for October 16, admitting that he “anticipated that reasoning” from the committee’s chairman Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone who recently said that he was trying to get an earlier schedule for a conference room than the initial schedule for October 23.
Evardone was told by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to schedule a hearing on the week of October 15 but said last week that if he does not get an earlier schedule the hearing may be put off until November.
Tanada said he had no problem looking for a room. He said that if hearings on the FOI would still be delayed “due to another reason, it would be obvious.”
Tanada said that he would tell Belmonte of his suggestion.
He said that despite word coming from Evardone that the hearings would be slated in November, “I’ve talked to the Speaker and he said he would ensure a hearing will be scheduled at least next week.”
But the chairman of the public information panel is insisting on a November 13 schedule, saying “I have already decided on November 13, our regular slot.” Asked about Tanada’s offer, the Eastern Samar lawmaker said “Erin did not coordinate with me. I was just told by the committee secretary that we were number three on reserve.”
The question now is whether Belmonte will direct the panel to take Tanada’s offer, placing the FOI Bill hearing at an earlier date, or not.
Like the similarly controversial Reproductive Health Bill, Tanada said that he was hoping that the FOI Bill would be approved before they go on Christmas break.
But he admitted that it would take both chambers of Congress’ approval for the proposed measure to survive. “If both chambers pass it on third reading before the Christmas break, it’s possible,” he said.
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