FOI ready for House plenary, says Akbayan solon
BAGUIO CITY – The Freedom of Information (FOI) measure pending in the House of Representatives will be ready for plenary discussions next month, said Akbayan Representative Ibarra Gutierrez III.
In a press conference here last week, Gutierrez said the FOI “was not given the opportunity to be discussed in plenary” because deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) used most of Congress’ time.
“What we want to happen after the State of the Nation Address is for the House to give time for the FOI sponsorship speech, either within the same week or by August, before the budget deliberations,” Gutierrez said.
The sponsorship speech is the first step for the measure to be taken up on the floor, he said. “We are determined to take up the FOI on the floor,” he said.
The proposed FOI law (House Bill No. 3237) establishes the legal presumption that people should have full access to government information. It enumerates instances when data must be published online or transmitted to those interested “without the necessity of demand,” Gutierrez said.
The measure was authored by Camarines Sur Rep. Maria Leonor Robredo and Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad.
Gutierrez described the House version of the FOI as a “good version,” owing to its open data provisions, including a mandatory disclosure clause for budgets and expenditures, as well as the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of government officials and employees, including judges.
At present, the Supreme Court screens requests made to access the SALN of its justices.
Gutierrez said the House proposal also requires contracts for projects commissioned by the government to be uploaded online.
The Senate’s FOI measure, Senate Bill No. 1733 (People’s Freedom of Information Act of 2013), which was passed on March 10, 2014, “is a classic FOI that is demand driven,” Gutierrez said. The Senate bill requires an individual to proceed to an agency to request for information, he said.
He said the House FOI measure now has 50 sponsors, “and my sense is no one is against it,” provided some concerns about how the measure could be abused are addressed.
Congress is also prepared to take up on the floor the proposed Sangguniang Kabataan reform measure, which retains an anti-dynasty provision, Gutierrez said.
The SK measure disqualifies youth candidates if they are related to an elective official up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, he said.
“You are the son of a mayor or a barangay captain, then goodbye. You can’t run for [any position in the] SK elections,” he said.
“Take note, this provision is much stricter than the pending anti-dynasty measure itself because that bill disqualifies candidates who are related to elected officials up to the fourth degree of consanguinity,” he said.
“The SK’s anti-dynasty provision does not provide exemptions. I believe the main anti-dynasty measure will offer exemptions,” he said.
He said debates over SK focused more on its proposed abolition because of complaints that the youth legislators are often influenced by political families or parties.
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