FOI Bill: Certify Urgent!

The Freedom of Information bill (FOI) in the Senate and in the House of Representatives has advanced despite the odds, having passed the respective committees.  FOI is now at a critical juncture, which will determine its passage in this 15th Congress. 


Given that time is running out in the 15th Congress, we appeal to the Senate and House leadership, as well as to the Executive, to accord its passage the urgency it deserves.


It is within their powers to pass the FOI bill in the 15th Congress despite the time constraint.


The Senators can make good their earlier commitments to pass the FOI bill. They must find time to proceed with interpellation, amendments, and passage on second and third reading before they adjourn for the December break.


In the House of Representatives, the Committee on Rules, through the Majority Leader, is empowered to declare a bill urgent, and to set the number of days or hours to be allotted for the consideration of the bill in plenary, and when vote on the bill shall be taken.


To start the process, we demand that Rep. Evardone gives justice to the 17 members of the House who voted to approve the committee report last November 27, by submitting it to plenary today (Monday, December 3). The House leadership must then include the FOI bill in the Order of Business beginning this week.


On the part of the Executive, President Aquino can certify to the necessity of its immediate enactment, as he did with the Sin Tax Bill. This will place the FOI bill on par with the highest priority measures of Congress, and save it the delay from the interval of days needed in passing bills on second and third readings.


We take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the FOI champions who succeeded in having the committee report approved by the House committee, despite the odds. Principally, we recognize the leadership of Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada and the crucial interventions by Akbayan Reps. Walden Bello and Kaka Bag-ao, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, CIBAC Reps. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales and Sherwin Tugna, and Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño.


We also express our heartfelt gratitude for the other regular, deputized and ex-officio members of the Committee on Public Information who answered the call for an affirmative vote on the FOI consolidated bill. They are Cebu 1st District Rep. Rachel Marguerite del Mar, Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, Kabataan Rep Raymond Palatino, AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin, Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano, DIWA Rep. Emmeline Aglipay, Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe, An Waray Rep. Neil Benedict Montejo, and Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo.


In plenary, we appeal to the proponents of the Right of Reply to allow the passage of the FOI. We urge them to pursue their Right of Reply advocacy independent of the FOI bill's passage. Constitutional and public policy issues remain unresolved around the Right of Reply, which should be fully deliberated in the separate measures also filed with Rep. Evardone's committee, with all the stakeholders consulted extensively.


We will support reasonable amendments to the FOI bill, like the provision on safeguard against abuse proposed by Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy. We will likewise support an amendment that will address the concern of the Department of National Defense over the time gap between the repeal of the existing information classification guidelines and the promulgation of the new classification guidelines as provided under the bill. 


Beyond this, all that remains for the 15th Congress is the fulfillment of a solemn promise to the people to pass the long-overdue Freedom of Information Act.

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Co-Convenor, Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition


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