Lawmakers told: If you have nothing to hide, fear not FOI bill | Inquirer News

Lawmakers told: If you have nothing to hide, fear not FOI bill

/ 05:54 AM January 30, 2014

Sen. Grace Poe: Fear not. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Grace Poe on Wednesday called on the House of Representatives to speed up the passage of the freedom of information (FOI) bill, saying House members have nothing to fear from the transparency measure if they have nothing to hide.

The neophyte senator, who made the remark in a radio interview in which she kept referring to the House as “Congress,” said she was confident the Senate would pass the FOI bill by March.


“My apprehension is that in Congress (sic), we’re no longer certain. It’s different in Congress (sic) because they have many members. We’re only 24 in the Senate,” Poe said.


“I suppose they have nothing to fear if they have nothing to hide,” she added.

Poe said she has been assured by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte that the House would pass its version of the FOI during his term.

Nonetheless, she mentioned two reasons why the House would not be able to pass the FOI bill as swiftly as the Senate.

Not priority

“This has not been certified as urgent. Congress’ (sic) priority now is amending the economic provisions of the Constitution. So, yes, this might not pass as quickly as we would want it to,” Poe said.

She also said she could understand why President Aquino wouldn’t want to certify the FOI bill as urgent despite Malacañang’s repeated expressions of support for the measure.


“This is my own speculation. If you’re the highest-ranking executive, FOI would really make you anxious especially if you’re balancing the right of the people to know the transactions of the government and other factors such as national security, investigation of a criminal activity or diplomatic relations,” Poe said.

“There are many pieces of information that are really sensitive to just be made public. This is perhaps the reason why they want to look at our version to see whether there is protection for the government,” she added.

Still, Poe expressed the hope that the FOI bill will be approved into law before Aquino steps down in 2016.

“Before the 16th Congress ends, they might do a ‘photo-finish’ approval by the bicam,” she said.

Both chambers passed an FOI bill in 2010 during the 14th Congress. A question of quorum on the last session day, however, prevented the House from ratifying the bicameral conference committee report. That meant the FOI had to go back to square one in the 15th Congress.

Despite being a campaign promise of the Aquino administration, the FOI didn’t make much headway in the House during the 15th Congress.

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The Senate, nonetheless, passed its version of the FOI in the 15th Congress—the “people’s ownership of government information” which was sponsored by the then committee of public information chair, Sen. Gregorio Honasan.

TAGS: Congress, FOI Bill, Grace Poe, Philippines, transparency

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