Philippines House Begins Debate on FOI Legislation

28 January 2013

The Philippines House Jan. 28 took up the long-delayed freedom of information bill, but with only five days left in the congressional session and still without presidential help.

Promisingly, considering that quorum problems are common during the final days of a session, a roll call  was answered by 186 members.

The FOI bill (House Bill 6766) had not been placed on the day’s agenda, but in the early evening, Rep. Ben Evardone was allowed to  “sponsor” the bill, saying the measure  “will change governance as we know it, radically, and for the better,” according to a report in the Inquirer.

FOI supporters have said that President Benigno Aquino needs certify the bill as urgent, giving it some procedural advantages, but over the weekend the president again said he was reluctant to do so, the  The session is due to end Feb. 8.

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, the main proponent of the bill, noted that the FOI bill was 21 years in the making. He said the FOI bill can still be enacted into law if members are willing to “compromise,” according to a Sun Star article.

“I urge all of us to cast away our personal apprehensions, and see the FOI bill as a measure that will enable a stronger democracy, better governance, economic development, and responsive programs and services,” he said.

The session was suspended soon after Evardone spoke. It must be approved on second and third reading. It would then need to go to a bicameral conference committee to reconcile differences with the Senate-passed bill, which are few.

For photos of a MArch stages Jan. 28 by FOI bill supporters, see here. 

 

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