Belmonte not keen on transparency bill
MANILA, Philippines—Some lawmakers may be pushing for bicameral conference committee meetings to be opened to the public for greater transparency in the legislative process but Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. is not too keen on the idea.
Asked to comment on Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond Palatino and Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Teddy Casiño’s recent filing of House Bill 6651 or the Bicameral Meeting Transparency Act of 2012, Belmonte said that allowing the public to attend the discussions of the bicameral committee could lead to having “everybody grandstanding.”
The proposed bill seeks to ensure “transparency and maximum public participation” during the said meetings which Palatino described to be “secretive in nature.”
Meetings between conferees from the Senate and the House of Representatives are meant to provide a venue to reconcile disagreeing provisions in measures passed by both chambers of Congress. Amendments can still be made at this stage, as in the case of the controversial Republic Act No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, wherein contentious provisions were included during bicameral talks.
But Belmonte did not disagree to everything stated in HB 6651, saying that the portion which allows members of both chambers of Congress who are not part of the bicameral conference committee to attend the meetings but need the consent of the panel’s chairperson before being allowed to join discussions was “reasonable.”
Lawmakers who are not members of the bicameral conference committee are not allowed to vote, according to the proposed bill.
HB 6651 not only requires bicameral talks be opened to public scrutiny but also mandates that information on the venue of the meetings be disseminated to the public.
Palatino has earlier voiced apprehension over the secrecy of the bicameral conference committee meetings, issuing a warning that just like how the new Cybercrime law came out with contentious provisions, controversial measures like the Reproductive Health Bill could end up being watered-down.
And while the partylist lawmaker welcomed Belmonte’s response to the proposal to allow non-bicameral conference committee members to join discussions, he said “transparency also requires that we allow the public to monitor bicameral meetings.”
This was echoed by Marikina Representative Miro Quimbo, one of the lower chamber of Congress’ conferees during the bicameral talks on the Cybercrime law, who agreed that the said meetings should be made public.
“Doing so is not an anathema. In fact, opening the bicameral conference committee meetings to the public erases doubts which are often without basis,” he said.