Philippines Coalition Endorses Aquino FOI Legislation

17 February 2012

A leader in the Philippines House of Representatives has indicated he plans to schedule hearings on freedom of information in late February en route to summertime enactment.

The comment by Deputy House Speaker and Quezon Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada came at a Feb. 15 press  event at which the bill’s supporters released a lengthy statement endorsing the version of the bill announced recently by President Benigno Aquino. (See previous report.) The statement also traces the history of the bill, including some insight on coalition negotiations during 2011with the Aquino administration.

“In sum, we accept the executive’s proposed amendments to the bill. However, we encourage Congress to still consider non-contentious refinements and improvements. The important thing, however, is to facilitate the immediate passage of the long-overdue FOI law,” according to the statement by the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, a group of 150 civil organizations.

Members of the group “pushed Congress to sign into law the FOI bill at the soonest possible time without watering down its significant provisions,” according to a description of the press conference  on the website of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

Tanada said he is confident that the country would have an FOI law before the year ends, according to the PCIJ account, which continued:

However, Tanada also emphasized that the real battle for the FOI bill will not be in the committee level. Rather, it would be on the session floor, when some legislators may try to water down the bill because of their own concerns.

As it stands, Tanada said it is unlikely that any member of Congress would openly declare his opposition to a freedom of information law. Instead, some legislators may try to sneak in revisions or amendments to the bill in order to protect their interests.

The FOI bill should be brought directly to the House floor, according to former Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, quoted in a Manila Bulletin article. “This bill should not be subjected to intense debate considering that there had been more controversial measures that were passed without going through plenary deliberation,” Abante explained.

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