• 2014 budget bumps off FOI bill

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    THE Freedom of Information (FOI) bill will be shunted to the backburner for a while because the Senate, upon its return on November 18, will have to prioritize deliberations on the P2.268-trillion proposed 2014 budget and have it passed before the Congress takes its Christmas break in December.

    The chamber was supposed to start the period of interpellation on the bill this week, before going into recess for All Saints’ Day, however, the FOI bill deliberation was not included in the agenda.

    Chances of having the bill discussed upon the resumption of the legislature is also nil because the Senate will begin the 2014 budget deliberation and by tradition all other matters will have to be suspended to give way to the budget.

    The House of Representatives already transmitted its proposed 2014 national budget to the Senate on Wednesday—this means there will be no other items that will be accommodated by the chamber until it pass the General Appropriations Act of 2014.

    Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public information, already sponsored on the floor the FOI bill law that seeks to adopt and implement a policy of full public disclosure of all government transactions, involving public interest, with appropriate safeguards to protect national security and national interest.

    Poe said the measure serves to complement the strong public clamor for transparency and accountability and the safeguarding of public funds.

    “FOI will not only prevent graft and corruption but more importantly, our citizens will learn to get involved and participate and thus will become true stakeholders in their government. This is the true essence of democracy,” she said during her sponsorship speech on September 24.

    Once approved, the public can be granted access to any record or information that is under the control of the government except for information concerning national security.

    Senate President Franklin Drilon in an earlier interview said that the chamber would try to pass the measure before the year is over but maintained that the proposed budget would still be the priority.

    “Once the budget is in the Senate, the other items on the floor will have to be suspended. We want to finish the budget by December 31, before we go on a break,” he added.

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