Philippines Senate Nears Passage of FOI Bill

4 March 2014

The Philippines Senate March 3 approved on second reading a freedom of information bill, after making some amendments.

The FOI bill (Senate Bill 1733) is expected to pass on third and final reading on March 10.

Senate passage has occurred regularly in recent years, but passage in the House has been the hang-up. Once again, the responsible House committee chairman has slowed progress on the bill. A working group recently missed a self-imposed deadline to combine versions of the bill. (See previous report.)

The public information committee has set a new goal of coming up with a consolidated FoI bill version before Congress take its break on March 15 to May 4, according a March 4 report in Business World.  A meeting is scheduled for March 10.

The main Senate sponsor is Sen. Grace Poe, who said, “This measure will arm the public with the tool to scrutinize government transactions to ensure the highest interests of our people and the country.” According to an Interaksyon article. The report said the amendments included:

(1) Tightening of the provision on personal privacy and sensitive personal information by defining its parameters;

(2) The expansion of the concept of national security by including health pandemics and similar situations reflecting the modern definition of national security; and

(3) The mandatory posting by government agencies in their official websites of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth of officials with salary grade 27 or higher.

Senate President Franklin Drilon was quoted as saying that s the approved version “addresses all the concerns” raised by various stakeholders. The Manila Bulletin reported:

When asked if he has been assured by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. that the House of Representatives would expedite the passage of the measure, Drilon said, “What they told us is that once we are finished, they will start deliberating.”

“I’m still standing by what I’ve [earlier] said that I guarantee it will be approved here [House of Representatives] during my duly term of office this 16th Congress,” Belmonte was quoted as saying by Business World.

The first regular session of the 16th Congress will soon adjourn, and the second regular session will start on July 28.


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