Working Group to Polish Philippine FOI Legislation

24 November 2010

A bi-partisan parliamentary working group has been formed to “further polish” a freedom of information bill for the Philippines, according to a news report on ABS-CBNNews.com.

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada was quoted as saying that the group “hopes to wrap up its work before Christmas so the measure can be reported out before the end of the year.” He said the TWG will invite “everyone who has a stake in the measure to submit comments or position papers.” He said the meetings would be open.

Tañada said the group will “reconcile and consolidate these versions into a single bill, based on the inputs of the authors, invited experts, and consultants.”

He predicted that discussions would revolve around exceptions.”This is where the bloody battle will be fought.”

The report said that “media groups and other advocates of the bill have expressed concern that some FOI bills contain exceptions that are either too broad or too vague, or so highly discretionary that they nullify the constitutional right to information.

“My goal in the TWG is not to foreclose alternative views on the exceptions. I think they are the product of legitimate concerns, and are worth looking into. The authors have their reasons, and in the TWG they will get a chance to elaborate on those.”

“Besides,” Tañada continued, “a healthy debate can only help the bill, not hurt it. I am not worried.”

The product of the working group will be sent to the Committee on Public Information.

Tañada was optimistic about the future of the bill, according to another news report, on GMA News.

“We have high hopes that this measure will be passed under the new administration. There is no lawmaker who strongly opposes the measure.

The same report said lawyer Nepo Malaluan of the Right to Know, Right Now Network warned against bills that he said were masquerading as FOIs but in reality will only restrict the law.

He mentioned House Bill 59 of Rep. Karlo Nograles of the 1st District of Davao City and House Bill 830 of Camiguin Lone District Rep. Pedro Romualdo.  Malaluan cited Section 18 of Nograles’ House Bill 59 which states that the FOI would not apply in the government transactions that happened prior to the enactment of the FOI bill into a law.

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