Nine-Day People’s Vigil for FOI

Start FOI debate today (Jan. 21), advocates urge Belmonte, Gonzales

21 January 2013 || CCJD || FOI

THE broad coalition of Freedom of Information (FOI) advocates on Sunday urged Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II to allow the sponsorship and start plenary debates today, Monday, on the FOI bill.


Citing the urgency of action on the FOI bill by the House of Representatives, the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition also announced its decision to launch a nine-day “People’s Vigil FOI” to coincide with the next nine session days of Congress beginning today and until Feb. 8, 2013.


If the House leadership is serious about giving the FOI bill a chance to pass through Third Reading within the remaining nine session days, Speaker Belmonte and Majority Leader Gonzales must ensure that the sponsorship of the committee report on FOI is in the Order of Business for Jan. 21, the Coalition said in a press statement.


Every single day of delay would serve as additional evidence that the less-than-spirited action on the FOI bill by the House over the last two months may have been deliberately calculated to prevent the timely consideration and passage of the FOI bill, the Coalition said. 


This resort to delaying action may only be designed to lead the FOI bill to the same outcome – the death, or murder, of the FOI bill – that happened on the last session days of the 14th Congress under then Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr.


Should the FOI bill meet a redux of its tragic fate in the 14th Congress, the members of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition would have no choice but to hold Speaker Belmonte and Majority Leader Gonzalez responsible for command negligence.


It will be recalled that Rep. Ben Evardone, chair of the House Committee on Public Information, had on several instances earlier reneged on his commitment to hold committee hearings on the FOI bill.


That early, FOI advocates have sought Belmonte's intervention and action, but he chose only to ignore, or play ignorant and indifferent to our appeals.  As Evardone hemmed and hawed, legislators in favor of the FOI bill launched an initiative to use Rule IX, Section 37, par. 1 of the Rules of the House of Representatives, which states:


"Regular and Special Meetings. The committees shall hold regular meetings at least twice a month. Special meetings may be held by the committee which may be called by the chairperson or by one-fourth (1/4) of its Members. Provided, that the Members shall be notified in writing and, as far as practicable, through electronic mail indicating therein the date, time, place and agenda of the meeting."


Led by Akbayan Representatives Walden Bello and Kaka Bag-ao, the group was able to secure the signatures of more than the eight Committee members needed to put the rule in effect. 


A notice of committee hearing for October 9 was signed by nine members of the Committee -- Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao, Rep. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales of CIBAC, Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna, Rep Raymond Palatino of Kabataan, Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy of Bagong Henerasyon, Rep. Sharon Garin of AAMBIS-OWA, Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil of Pangasinan, Rep. Rodolfo Albano of Isabela, and Rep. Danilo Ramon Fernandez of Laguna.


Belmonte, however, prevailed upon the group to allow Evardone to call the hearing instead, which allowed Evardone to further delay committee action.


Belmonte can make up for lost time by acting decisively on the FOI bill today, January 21 and on all the eight session days remaining before the Congress adjourns again on Feb. 9, for the May 2013 elections.


We will closely monitor, and censure or celebrate if need be, how Speaker Belmonte, Majority Leader Gonzales, Representative Evardone, and all the House members will act on FOI bill in the next three weeks.


We will attend all plenary sessions of the next nine session days of Congress starting today, January 21 as we all have a right to know which of the House members will do right or wrong by the FOI bill.


We will kick off our nine-day vigil for the FOI bill with a Mass at the St. Peter's Parish Church on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, at noon today, before proceeding to the Old Batasan Building to be present at the House plenary session.


We request the members of the news and online media, and most important of all, our citizens to join our People’s Vigil for FOI.

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


Mobile: 0918 927 1501

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