House Group Starts Working on Philippines FOI Bill

21 February 2014

Slow progress has been made by a Philippines House Committee to write a freedom of information bill.

The Technical Working Group appointed last year began substantive talks on the bill for the first time Feb. 18, several days after a self-imposed Feb. 14 deadline for completing the job.

After getting through the first six sections, the group adjourned before completing work on Section Seven, which deals with exemptions, according to a BusinessWorld report quoting Rep. Emmeline Y. Aglipay.

Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. said the group “needed more time to discuss Section 7.” Most of the 22 FOI bill before the committee have 29 sections. “Hopefully by March, but it depends how fast we authors agree on the contentious provisions,” Baguilat told BusinessWorld.  Aglipay said, “I hope we finish by March, but that is not sure.”

“I think it was productive even though we didn’t achieve and meet the deadline set by the mother committee,” Rep. Aglipay told GMA News Online.

“I think that at the very least, we are inching forward and I think discussing every provision and knowing the sentiments of the members of the TWG is a good step so that it cannot be said that it was railroaded, or that the positions of the other representatives were not heard,” she said.

Palace Submits Its Version

The Aquino administration has submitted its own FOI bill, similar to a version offered in the last Congress, which FOI supporters had been prepared to accept.

“This draft bill is a result of a consultative process after careful study of similar legislation by a study group convened upon the instruction of the President in order that it serves public interest without compromising government’s legitimate rights, in other words, balance legitimate needs for confidentiality with the public’s right to know,” Communication Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III wrote.

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