21 September 2012

[FYI in Sun.Star] FOI bill proponents told: Don't lose hope

House committee on public information chairman Ben Evardone told proponents of the freedom of information (FOI) bill not lose hope on its approval as it is scheduled to be tackled again next month after more than a year of deferred hearings.

Evardone said he has talked to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. that he will calendar the FOI bill after the approval on third reading of the proposed 2013 national budget scheduled on October 15.

"Definitely, there's still a chance for the FOI bill. Don't lose hope," Evardone said in an interview.

Most likely, the FOI measure will be approved -- at least in the committee level -- next month, he added.

Evardone earlier said he has prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the FOI bill in case the House leadership schedules a caucus on the proposed law.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said earning the support of lawmakers through a caucus would make it easier for the FOI bill to be enacted into law.

"With regard to the FOI bill, although it's controversial, as soon as there's a common consensus, it will be easier to shepherd it," he said in an earlier interview.

The measure, which will allow greater access to government records, was earlier calendared in the committee level on August 7.

The hearing, however, was deferred because another controversial measure, the reproductive health (RH) bill, was initially scheduled in the plenary on the same day.

Meanwhile, youth leaders also wrote to Speaker Belmonte asking him to push for a committee hearing on the FOI bill.

"We recognize the concerns of some Representatives on particular provisions on the measure, but it is in our strong belief that these can truly be addressed in the different stages of the legislative process once the bill is reported out of the Committee," said Carlo Brolagda, convenor of the FYI.

The group, who calls themselves the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI), said an FOI law will "curb corruption and advance participatory governance."

The manifesto was signed by 33 youth organizations and student councils. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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