Belmonte vows FOI bill passage next year (ho-hum)
MANILA, Philippines—Will the much-anticipated Freedom of Information (FOI) law ever see the light of day?
The FOI bill is among proposed anticorruption measures the House of Representatives is expected to pass next year, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Tuesday.
At the Second Conference on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (Uncac) that was held in Malacañang, Belmonte cited at least 10 bills the House plenary may pass next year.
“They have received approval from the relevant committees and are in the final stages of report preparation. By next year, expect these bills to be discussed and approved in the plenary sessions,” Belmonte told the Palace audience that included President Aquino.
Mr. Aquino had promised passage of an FOI bill during his term when he was campaigning for the presidency in 2010. But after more than four years in office, he never made it a priority measure in Congress.
Waiting for House
The Senate though has passed its version of an FOI bill that must await its House counterpart.
The FOI bill will allow public access to government documents and transactions, except for those affecting national security, as one way of checking corruption and keeping the people informed of goings-on in government.
Among the other anticorruption bills that may be approved by the House are: An Act Penalizing Influence Peddling, which defines and criminalizes influence peddling in line with Uncac provisions; Whistleblowers Protections and Benefits Act, and amendments to the Ombudsman Act and the Sandiganbayan Act.
Two proposed measures are based on recommendations made by Uncac, Belmonte said.
These are amendments to the Code of Conduct and ethics law where the definition of “public officials” will include foreign public officials and officials or public international organizations performing functions or services under Philippine laws, and amendments to the anti-money laundering law “to include Uncac-related offenses as predicate crimes and codifications of these laws pertaining to graft and corruption.”
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