Philippines House Chairman Forsees Action in July

8 June 2012

The chairman of the committee in the Philippines House that will handle the freedom of information bill said June 5 that he will be trying to come up with an “acceptable formula.”

Rep. Ben Evardone, public information committee chairman, was quoted in an article by Jess Diaz in The Philippine Star and by GMA. “I’m trying to come up with an acceptable formula on the conflicting provisions of the FOI and the right of reply bills without compromising the right of the people to information,” he said.

Evardone also indicated that the FOI bill will be in the front burner after President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23. “I am confident that an acceptable formula will have been finalized after the SONA,” he said. Both the Senate and the House took a break this week and will resume in mid-July.

The chairman also was quoted as saying,  “The other contentious issues like national security matters, privilege communications, among others, would also have been addressed by that time. Maybe, one or two more committee meetings would be enough to come up with a report.”

He noted that there are 15 bills with wide conflicting provisions.  The Senate version has wide support but has not been approved by the full body. But House approval has always been seen as more difficult. (See previous report.)

The Right to Know, Right Now coalition has called on Evardone to “perform his duty as committee chairman” and to “transform rhetoric and promises into reality.”

“Maybe one or two committee meetings would be enough to come up with a committee report. In the meantime, I am asking all stakeholders and proponents to keep an open mind on a possible compromise bill without surrendering the very essence of the right of information,” Everdone said in an email, according to GMA.

The leading Senate figure on the bill, Sen. Gregorio Honasan II “remained confident that the bill will be taken up when session resumes in July,” according to a report in The Manila Standard. It also said:

 “I hope when session resumes after SONA (State-of-the-Nation Address) in July, or the last Monday of July, [we will be able to deliberate on it]. I’m confident that we will do this as expeditiously as possible,” he said.

Honasan said that they have received the Palace version and has consolidated their amendments with the Senate’s version.

“If this not listed as a priority, we understand why Malacañang is not keen on this but now that we have reconciled certain areas of disagreement I think  this will be expedited,” he said.

Among the improvements in the consolidated version is the omission of the “information commission” which Honasan said “is just another layer to prolong the process of giving our people the information that they want.”

Advocates of the bill are urging supporters to “Post a badge for FOI,” referring to a colorful icon urging Evardone to act.

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