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Evardone vows voting on FOI bill

Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Stung by criticism, the chairman of the House committee on public information on Friday pledged to finally put the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to a vote when the hearing resumes on Nov. 27.

“I want this to get out of my committee so the plenary could now decide,” Rep. Ben Evardone on Friday told the Inquirer after FOI proponents accused him of mishandling the previous committee hearing last Tuesday.

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In the next hearing, he said he would ask members to vote on contentious issues such as the proposal to include a “right of reply” provision. Also up for discussions are Malacañang’s proposed exceptions to the FOI bill, such as matters pertaining to national interest and security.

Evardone insisted that there was still time to pass the FOI bill despite the coming election season when attendance at the House of Representatives traditionally dwindles. All three plenary sessions this week were adjourned for lack of quorum.

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Right of reply

“There is still time because we still have session until June after the May elections,” he said.

Tuesday’s committee hearing, only the second conducted on the FOI bill this year, ended unceremoniously supposedly for lack of time. Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino spoke for most part of the hearing, arguing in favor of including a “right of reply” provision in the measure.

The “right of reply” provision will force private media to give politicians free space to reply to criticism against them, among other things.

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III expressed “dismay” over the way Evardone, his fellow administration representatives, handled the hearing. Tañada warned that time was running out for the FOI bill, but his colleague urged him to be “optimistic.”

“Without curtailing the rights of the members of the committee and the authors, I hope we can expedite and shorten the debates,” Evardone said, denying accusations that he was conniving with Malacañang to kill the FOI bill.

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“To be fair to Malacañang, I have not received any hint to either approve or reject the bill, so I will just go through the process,” he claimed.

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TAGS: FOI, FOI Bill, Freedom of Information bill, Rep. Ben Evardone
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