There will be no delays in conducting hearings on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in the House of Representatives, FOI authors said over the weekend.
Reps. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao province, Walden Bello of Akbayan party-list and Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list noted that Rep. Jorge Almonte of Misamis Oriental who heads the House Committee of Public Information already vowed to conduct two hearings per month on the FOI measure.
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.
“The first hearing is on October 22 at 1:30 pm. That was his commitment to us [FOI advocates]. He also committed that he will call regular committee hearings, unlike in the last Congress when the gap between hearings takes six months,” Baguilat said in a text message.
Baguilat was referring to the fate of the FOI in the 15th Congress wherein the House Public Information panel consolidated the substitute bill on the FOI in February 2011 but approved the House panel approved the measure in November 2012. The FOI was never debated in the plenary.
“The commitment of Congressman Almonte to hold bimonthly meetings of the Committee on Public Information is a big advancement over the 15th Congress when the Committee would not meet for long periods of time,” Bello added.
During the 15th Congress, the House Public Information panel was headed by Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar of the ruling Liberal Party (LP). Almonte is also from LP like Evardone.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd has already included the FOI bill in his priority legislation list for 16th Congress.
Prior to his election to the Presidency, then LP Presidential candidate and Senator Aquino has vowed to push for the passage of the FOI measure into law once he becomes the Chief Executive. LLANESCA T. PANTI