10 October 2012

[FYI in Sun.Star] Group: No room in election ballots for anti-FOI lawmakers

MANILA -- No room for the freedom of information (FOI) bill? Then, there’s no room in the 2013 election ballots for you, either.

This was the reaction of a youth group pushing for the enactment of an FOI law following House committee on public information chairman Ben Evardone’s decision to once again defer the hearing on the FOI bill.

“No room for delays. No room for excuses. No room in our ballots in 2013 for public officials who continue to maintain the shroud of secrecy in government! FOI now!” the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI), a national network of youth and student organizations, said in a statement

“We have had enough of excuses from Rep. Evardone, the chairperson of a legislative committee whose supposed main duty is to prioritize measures such as the FOI Bill,” the group said.

On Monday, Evardone said the committee hearing on the FOI bill is rescheduled to November 13 despite House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.’s instruction to hold a hearing next week.

“There is no room available. I asked the ComSec (Committee Secretariat), there is no available slot,” Evardone said.

Anticipating Evardone’s excuse, FOI author Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Taňada took the initiative of reserving a room for a committee hearing but Evardone would not accept his proposal.

The hearing is rescheduled to November 13. “That’s final,” he said.

The FYI also called on the 117 lawmakers who signed a manifesto declaring their support for the passage of the FOI bill to push the measure forward.

Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello, one of the signatories, thinks Evardone is “caught in the middle”.

“Mystifying behavior. But there could be people in the House or outside who don’t like the bill passed who are pressing him. The man might be caught in the middle but I hope he finally decides to cast his lot with press freedom,” Bello said in a text message.

Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino, a member of the public information committee, doesn’t buy Evardone’s excuse.

“If there’s a will, there’s a room. Hold it in the plenary or lobby. I can reserve rooms here in Congress for non-committee functions easily in less than a day. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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