• Senate to start plenary deliberation of FOI bill next week

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    THE senate is expected to begin the interpellation period on the proposed freedom of information (FOI) next week although proponents of the measure are not expecting that the chamber will be able to pass it on final reading before congress goes on a break on December 20.

    According to Senator Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares, chairman of the Senate public information committee, she has been preparing for the interpellation long ago however, because of the need to pass the 2014 national budget she decided to defer the schedule of interpellation.

    Poe said that aside from the budget, there is also the need to pass the proposed supplemental budget and other measures that has something to do with the additional funding for the rehabilitation of calamity-stricken areas in the country.

    “I’m confident that by next week we are ready to proceed with the interpellation on FOI,” Poe said in an interview.

    The senate committee on public information  introduced its approved FOI bill, which seeks to promote transparency in all government records and transactions, in plenary last September but the chamber has yet to start the interpellation period.

    “I will request for FOI to be in the calendar next week but it is up to the leadership to finalize the agenda,” she added.

    The Senate’s People’s FOI bill still does not include the controversial right-of-reply provision, which is being proposed by some members of the House of representatives, during the previous congress.

    The provision requires media to give the subject government officials or department equal space or airtime to reply.

    Poe noted that media can regulate itself and congress should not dictate how media should present the side of the subject individual.

    “This is an ethical standard that is already imposed on different journalism organization you have to present both sides,” Poe added.

    The Senate bill, also cited seven exceptions to the people’s right to information, such as matters related to national security, foreign relations, law enforcement operations and privacy.

    The senate during the 15th congress was able to pass on final reading its version of the FOI bill called the people’s ownership of government information (POGI) bill introduced sponsored by Sen. Gregorio Honasan.

    Apart from Poe, Senators Juan Edgardo Angara and Joseph Victor Ejercito  also filed their versions of the FOI bill. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA

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