THE FREEDOM of Information (FOI) bill won’t be signed into a law this year, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte said over the weekend.
In a chance interview in Leyte, Alvarez said the House of Representatives has its hands full because of deliberations on the proposed P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017.
“I don’t have a problem with FOI, but for now, we are yet to complete the members for all committees. Give us a little time, because right now, we are also busy in deliberating on the 2017 national budget,” Alvarez said.
The FOI bill proposes to require all government offices to disclose and make available government documents for public scrutiny.
“I would say that the timeframe is too tight for this year because we will be discussing the budget until November. We’ll see next year,” Alvarez said.
Among the FOI bills in Congress is the version filed by the Makabayan bloc, which does not have a provision for exceptions.
Makabayan’s FOI measure provides for the release of all government documents “except when it is clear that the purpose of the examination is to abet or promote or commit crime or wrongdoing or to engage in sheer and idle curiosity.”
The Makabayan bloc, which includes the Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan and Anakpawis party-list groups, are allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte signed in July Executive Order No. 2 implementing the FOI in the Executive branch.
In his budget message, the President said it was Congress’ turn to pass the long-overdue FOI law so that the people’s right to information is honored across all branches and levels of the government.