Is the House of Representatives targeting to pass the Freedom of Information (FoI) bill next?
This may be so after Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. admitted seeing the controversial measure approved on second reading by January.
“We will go through the process (and) we should be able to start it now. But it will probably (be) up for (approval on) second reading by January,” Belmonte said Thursday.
The top House official made the statement after the Lower Congress approved the bill on responsible parenthood or RH bill on final reading with a 113-79 vote.
“The FOI bill is due to be considered for sponsorship possibly as early as today. I know it’s already in the hands of the rules committee,” Belmonte explained.
“And I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be sponsored already,” he noted.
The FoI bill, which aims to provide the public access to documents or information for matters of public interest, only gained steam in the Lower Congress after a panel approved its report on the measure earlier this month.
But Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of House Committee on Public Information, failed to sponsor the bill on Tuesday.
The process would have opened the measure to public deliberations and amendment on the plenary, which is a requisite for approval on second reading.
The legislation, on the other hand, breezed through the second reading and received no objections on third reading approval with a 17-0 vote in the Senate two weeks ago.
Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III confirmed there is still more time to accommodate the measure considering the nine session days remaining for January.
“I think the focus by then will be the FOI so we'll see. I don’t see any problem as we saw how FOI moved in the Senate on its own without certification coming from the president,” Tanada said.
“It would have great impact but I think there is enough political will since lawmakers know the importance of this measure. They will act. I hope they act,” he added.
But Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, vice chair of House Committee on Public Information, doused cold water on Tanada’s optimism.
“We have different dynamics here. Our interests are more parochial. For the Senators, they can’t afford to go against the FOI because it would paint a bad image for them, make them anti-transparency. Being holders of a national position, they need the media more,” Baguilat said.
“As for the House members, they have different interest, different experiences with the media. Senators are more exposed to the more responsible media,” Baguilat insisted.