After passing RH bill, House targets vote on FOI bill in January

After passing the reproductive health (RH) bill, the House of Representatives is setting its sights on voting on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill early next year.

In a press briefing, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said he wants plenary debates on the FOI bill—formally known House Bill 6766—to begin as soon as possible so that the lower chamber can vote on it by January.

“We should be able to start it now, so that it will probably be for second reading in January,” Belmonte said Tuesday.

The FOI bill, which promotes transparency in government records and transactions, has yet to be tackled at the House plenary after more than a year of languishing at the committee level.

At the Senate, a similar version was approved on third reading Monday night.

In a separate text message, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairperson of the House public information committee which approved the FOI bill last month, said he is “prepared” to sponsor the bill during Tuesday’s session.

Evardone even sent out advanced copies of his sponsorship speech of the FOI bill to the media on Tuesday morning.

'Lots of questioning'

Belmonte, however, said that he anticipates the FOI bill to invite “lots of questioning.”

“We would like to see it go through the process first… Maraming questioning ito. There were some who already expressed their intention to interpellate,” the House leader said.

He particularly named Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, advocate of the inclusion of a right-of-reply provision in the FOI bill, as one of the congressmen who are already lined up to question the measure.

The right-of-reply provision requires media outlets to publish the answers of persons involved in an issue which stemmed from information obtained through the FOI bill.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, a co-author of the FOI bill, for his part, said proponents of the measure are ready to answer queries from critics of the proposed legislation.

“The bill hasn’t been discussed adequately in the plenary, thus we will have to entertain interpellations and proposed amendments,” Baguilat said in a separate text messae.

Earlier this year, President Benigno Aquino III—who ran on a platform of government transparency—said he wants Congress to “push ahead” with the legislative process on the FOI bill. Despite this, he has not identified the measure as one of his administration’s priority legislations.

—KG, GMA News

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