• Lower House urged to expedite FOI passage

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    NOW that the Senate has been fully deliberating on the long-pending Freedom on Information (FOI) bill, its counterpart, the House of Representatives should follow suit, a cause-oriented group said.

    The Right to Know Right Now Coalition on Friday said that it is high time for the Lower House to also expedite the passage of the measure since more anomalies have been uncovered in the government.

    While the measure is pending on second reading at the Senate, the House of Representatives, on one hand, has yet to pass at the committee level.

    “We urge the House leadership to show a similar sense of urgency,” Coalition lead convener Nepomuceno Malaluan told The Manila Times as he commended the Senate for its commitment to pass the FOI Bill with the resumption of interpellations.

    The group is looking forward to the voting of the measure on second reading before Congress adjourns on March 15.

    “That is a clear indication of the Senate’s commitment to sort out all issues related to the proposed measure, and to have it passed by March this year as earlier announced by Senate President Franklin Drilon.

    Malaluan expressed hope that the Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting scheduled by House Committee on Public Information Chairman Rep. Jorge Almonte on February 6 will signal an earnest effort to advance the House counterpart measure.

    The group was convinced the way Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago interpellated Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information on the consistency of the measure to the 1987 Constitution.

    “The interpellation has sought to further test the consistency of the definition and coverage of terms under the Committee Report on FOI against existing laws, as well as the appropriate balancing of various Constitutional interests such as the right to information in relation to privacy and executive privilege,” Malaluan added.

    Before Congress adjourned in December 2013, the Senate started the period of interpellation of the committee report on FOI.

    To date, six senators have either already completed or made their preliminary interpellations on the measure.

    Malaluan said that the coalition will submit its consolidated comments on the interpellations to Poe, for her consideration when she formulates the committee amendments.

    He pointed out that the prompt passage in the Senate will give the FOI bill the much needed momentum to persuade the House leadership to speed up legislative action on its counterpart measure.

    The FOI bill seeks to promote transparency in government transactions and data.

    RITCHIE A. HORARIO

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