Freedom of information bill gathers dust in House

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With only three session days left before the House of Representatives goes on a one month and three week-long break starting March 15, lawmakers have to make the tough decision on which measure to prioritize: Charter Change, the Bangsamoro Basic Law or the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill?

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The chamber, whether influenced by Malacañang or not, seems to prioritize FOI least.
Charter Change or House Resolution 1 by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., which lifts the 40 percent or lower constitutional limit on foreign ownership of public utilities and land, made a strong start after it was approved by the House committee on constitutional amendments in two weeks.

While Belmonte’s measure sailed its way to the plenary smoothly, the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the House committee on public information is yet to consolidate the pending proposed FOI measures. The TWG, led by Rep. Jorge Almonte of Misamis Occidental, was only convened once during the entire 16th Congress.

During the first TWG meeting, the panel only agreed on the general provisions of the FOI. The contentious provisions such as the exceptions remain unresolved to date.

The Transition Commission, for its part, has yet to submit to Congress the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which would establish the Bangsamoro Region.

The establishment of the Bangsamoro Region stemmed from the peace pact between the government and the ex-separatist group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“What happened with Cha-Cha clearly defines the top priority of the House leadership. But the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is also coming in. I think the plenary will be crowded pretty soon. Hopefully, the FOI would be included in the mix,” Rep. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao, one of the authors of the FOI bill, said in a text message.

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