Senate plenary debate on FOI in October-A A +A
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
(UPDATED) Eight senators filed freedom of information (FOI) bill versions, but Senator Grace Poe said that her committee needs one more hearing before they could discuss the divisive measure at the plenary next month.
The Senate is expected to discuss the FOI bill at the plenary in October, once the public information and mass media committee has submitted its report.
In an ambush interview after the first committee hearing Wednesday, Poe said she has read all the FOI measures filed by senators and said they are "almost the same."
Senate records show that Senators Loren Legarda, Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito, Alan Peter Cayetano, Teofisto Guingona III, Sergio Osmeña III, Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis Escudero have all filed their own versions of the bill.
"We will review all positions and come up with a committee report by October, enshrining public interest and welfare. With the support of majority of my fellow senators and a very strong public clamor, I am confident that the bill will be finally passed this 16th Congress," Poe, chairman of public information and mass media committee, said in a press release Wednesday.
Poe said media organizations, civil society, and other key stakeholders will further articulate their positions in the next hearing.
She said she also plans to ask the House of Representatives on their "apprehensions" to aid faster passage of the bill.
"Kung maipapasa natin ngayon ang FOI, ang ating bansa ay mapapabilang sa hanay ng 93 na bansa sa buong mundo na may kaukulang batas tungkol sa Freedom of Information. May halos 50 bansa naman ang kasalukuyang nagsasaayos ng kanilang FOI," Poe said.
For her part, Senator Nancy Binay asked President Benigno Aquino III to prioritize the bill’s enactment.
“Access to information is an essential requirement of transparency and accountability. The FOI bill gives our citizens the necessary tools to fully participate in good governance, with the right to know government transactions, raise their grievances and for the government to act on this,” she said.
While waiting for an FOI law, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said transparency in the use of public funds can be done by uploading scanned copies of the Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) on the Budget department website.
Recto said making the Saros public will help citizens track the progression of public funds, from their release by the Department of Budget and Management to their usage by the implementing agencies, and to their review by the Commission on Audit.
The controversial measure was not ratified by the 15th Congress. Only the Senate was able to approve it on third reading, while the bill only reached sponsorship stage at the House of Representatives. (CPT/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)