FOI bill moves at House plenary-A A +A
Monday, January 28, 2013
MANILA -- The controversial freedom of information (FOI) bill has moved at the plenary of the House of Representatives on Monday after the chamber finally mustered a quorum.
House records show 184 members were present in the plenary.
Earlier, the House leadership sent text reminders to its members to attend the last six session days before Congress goes on a break for the campaign period for the May midterm elections.
House Bill 6766, An Act Strengthening the Right of Citizens to Information held by the Government, or the FOI bill, was approved in the committee level on November 27, 2012 but a report on the proposed law was only approved two weeks after.
House committee on public information chairman Ben Evardone, who sponsored the bill in the plenary, said the landmark legislation aims to enhance citizen empowerment and governance.
"On the whole, the bill will change governance as we know it. Radically – and for the better. We can just imagine what the FOI would institutionalize. A thousand ideas will bloom. Superior, ennobling thoughts will guide the shaping of policy. Every citizen would be part of the policy-shaping mainstream," he said.
The FOI bill submitted to the floor does not include a right of reply provision proposed by Nueva Ecija Representative Rodolfo Antonino.
"While FOI bills may have been filed since the 8th Congress, it is only in the present Congress that some of the FOI bills filed contain provisions that the committee found to be contentious. The committee submits to the wisdom of the plenary the decision on whether or not these concerns will be included in the FOI bill," he said.
House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, the main proponent of the bill, noted that the FOI bill was 21 years in the making.
Tañada appealed to the House committee on rules to certify the FOI bill as urgent. He said the FOI bill can still be enacted into law if members are willing to "compromise."
"I urge all of us to cast away our personal apprehensions, and see the FOI bill as a measure that will enable a stronger democracy, better governance, economic development, and responsive programs and services," he said.
Session was suspended immediately after the FOI bill was sponsored in the plenary.
The FOI bill needs to hurdle second and third reading before it is sent to the bicameral conference committee and submitted to President Benigno Aquino III for his signature.
The Senate had already approved its version of the FOI bill last year. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)