Senate panel sets first hearing on FOI bill-A A +A
Sunday, August 25, 2013
MANILA -- The first Senate committee hearing on the proposed freedom of information (FOI) law has been set next week, September 4.
Neophyte Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, said this as she urged the public to sustain their support for the measure calling for transparency in government transactions.
"With vigorous public support, we expect to hurdle all challenges in the passage of the FOI bill," Poe said in a statement.
Poe noted that the lack of an FOI law has led to the abuse of government funds, including that of the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) allocated to members of Congress for their local and national constituents.
“Ito ang unang sandata natin para malaman kung ano ang nangyayari sa gobyerno. Kung wala tayong impormasyon, wala tayong batayan para umaksyon. Dahil nakakubli ang katotohanan, taon ang binibilang bago natin malaman ang nangyayari—kaya lubhang mahalaga ang FOI,” the senator said.
The House committee on public information, however, has yet to convene as members have not yet been completed.
To recall, the Senate passed its own version of the FOI bill dubbed the POGI Act of 2012 or the People's Ownership of Government Information in the 15th Congress. It was the lower chamber which failed to approve the counterpart measure.
The House leadership earlier designated Misamis Occidental Representative Jorge Almonte as chairperson of the House committee on public information. Almonte is a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) led by President Benigno Aquino III.
Proponents of the FOI bill are hoping that the proposed law will not suffer the same fate it did in the previous 15th Congress where it languished in the committee level for two years before it was sent to the plenary for the chamber's approval.
By then, the House of Representatives lacked enough time to discuss their version of the FOI bill as they were about to go on a long break for the 2013 midterm elections.
"I'm not worried but the House FOI champions should really exert more effort to keep things moving," Diwa party-list Representative Emmeline Aglipay said in a text message.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. said Almonte promised to convene the public information committee once he gets back from an overseas trip by the end of the month.
"We're giving him the benefit of the doubt," Baguilat said.
Cibac party-list Representative Sherwin Tugna, for his part, said that the recent controversies over the misuse of PDAF is enough for Congress to be pressured to pass an FOI law.
"Personally, I believe that what happened in the 15th Congress won't happen again. It is because of the people's clamor against corruption and necessarily, the call for transparency is related to that," he said. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)