FOI bill proponents vow vigilance-A A +A
Friday, October 25, 2013
PROPONENTS of the freedom of information (FOI) bill on Friday vowed to be vigilant as the House committee on public information this week started what will be another long road for the approval of the pro-transparency measure.
"We will not be perturbed. We will continue to be vigilant. We will shepherd it to final approval in plenary. Now that public distrust is in high level, the passage of the bill should not be delayed," Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo, one of the authors of the FOI bill, said.
During the organizational hearing of the House panel, Castelo proposed that the committee adopt the 15th Congress version of the FOI bill to fast track the enactment of the proposed law. Neophyte lawmakers however opposed Castelo's motion. Instead, the committee approved a motion of Diwa party-list Representative Emmeline Aglipay creating a technical working group (TWG) to consolidate all the 19 FOI bills referred to the committee.
In the 15th Congress, the House public information committee under the chairmanship of Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone discussed the FOI bill for two years and referred it to the House plenary when Congress was about go on a long break in preparation for the May midterm elections.
Castelo and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. are both hopeful on the commitment of the committee's new chairman, Misamis Occidental Representative Jorge Almonte, that he can steer the TWG.
Almonte however declined to set a date for the meeting of the TWG as Congress goes on a three-week break starting Monday.
"The setting of date would surely be a guarantee on the commitment of the chairman that discussions on the FOI bill would move forward," Castelo said.
Baguilat volunteered to chair the TWG proceedings during the break.
"Under normal circumstances, hearings are rarely conducted during recess because this is the time to visit constituencies and rest and recharge n chair Almonte has all the right to invoke this. But given the urgency of passing FOI, the TWG must convene to consolidate the bills ASAP. And if chair Almonte would want, I can volunteer to chair the proceedings in his stead," Baguilat said.
Once the FOI bill passes the committee level, it will be sponsored in the plenary and scheduled for debates before being voted on second and third reading approval and sent to Malacanang for President Benigno Aquino III's signature. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)