FOI suffers another setback

Rio Rose Ribaya

The Freedom of Information (FoI) bill suffered another setback in the House of Representatives after solons decided to postpone committee deliberations on the controversial measure until next month.

House Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr. said committee hearings on the bill ensuring public access to government documents will resume on November 5, after congressmen return from a break.

Belmonte disclosed he convinced House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III to hear the bill on Nov. 13 instead of Oct. 16 since Congress is scheduled to take a Halloween break starting October 20.
  
“I prevailed on Erin to agree to November 13 for FoI. It’s a fixed date. We may adjourn Tuesday next week so there willl be no people by Wednesday (in Congress)," Belmonte said.

Tañada disclosed sensing the gradual yet imminent death of the proposed transparency law, and urged the House Committee on Public Informations to meet and discuss the measure more often this year.

The bill's author likened the single hearing conducted by panel chair and Eastern Samar Ben Evardone in 10 months is "tantamount to declaring the measure under intersive care unit."

"With a November 13 hearing and only having one hearing to speak of from January to October this year, Rep. Evardone placed FOI in ICU... in life-support... gasping for breath," Tañada explained.

But Tañada remained confident that the bill can still be passed on final reading before Congress adjourns for Christmas break if the panel would be able to approve it on November 13.

"If we pass it on Nov. 13, there is still a chance to beat the December deadline if the Speaker allows it to be discussed immediately at plenary together with RH," he added.

FoI insists on people's right to information on matters of public concern, demanding full public disclosure of all state transactions involving public interest.

The measure also provides access to information being used for decision making or project management as well as transcripts and minutes of official meetings.