Putting Charter Change (Cha-Cha) higher in the list of priority list measures than the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill will sideline the FOI bill for good, one of the authors of the FOI said Tuesday.
Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), expressed such sentiments over the announcement of LP Vice Chairman and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. of Quezon City that he ranks Charter Change higher in the priority list because the various pending FOI measures are yet to be consolidated by the Technical Working Group which is yet to be convened.
The FOI implements the right of the people to information on matters of public concern and the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest thru mandatory posting of wealth statement of public officials and access to information being used for decision making or project management, including transcripts and minutes of official meetings, provided that there is a legitimate request.
“I think it [going for Cha-Cha over FOI]could send the wrong signals for those who are on the sidelines. That wrong signal is that FOI isn’t a priority at all of the House leadership,” Baguilat said.
Belmonte has said that he sees FOI passing into law under his term as Speaker or until 2016, but House Public Information panel Chairman Jorge Almonte of Misamis Oriental is yet to convene the TWG he heads to consolidate the at least 16 pending FOI measures.
Baguilat, however, remains hopeful that Belmonte can steer the FOI into passage, arguing that pro-transparency measure is more important than the moves to amend the Constitution.
“I can live with [Belmonte’s] words that FOI will pass under his helm in this Congress. He’s an honorable man and I don’t foresee him lessening his commitment to his pledge just because he’s prioritizing Cha-Cha,” Baguilat said.
“I would say FOI is more important than Cha-Cha in terms of the national interest, considering that the battle cry of a lot of enlightened citizens is transparency and enough of scams. Let’s finish FOI first before Cha-Cha which requires more study,” he added.
Rep. Emmeline Aglipay of Democratic Independent Workers Association (DIWA) party-list earlier identified Almonte as an obstruction to FOI’s passage because Almonte won’t convene the TWG that would reconcile the 16 different versions of FOI.
“I think the most important hurdle right now is the Committee chair because he is also chair of the technical working group (TWG). I’m very disappointed at how the Chair handles the FOI bill,” Aglipay, an FOI author like Baguilat, said in an earlier press conference.
The House Public Information panel earlier agreed that the TWG should have been consolidated the at least 16 pending FOI measures by February 2014. LLANESCA T. PANTI