18 January 2013

[FYI in the Inquirer] House urged anew: Pass information bill

Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition
press conference with House champions.
MANILA, Philippines—Youth advocates seeking transparency in  government urged Friday the House of Representatives to pass the Freedom of Information Bill.

In a statement, members of some 68 youth groups organized under the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) called on the lower chamber of the 15th Congress to “cement its reputation as the ‘House of the People’ that has successfully enacted relevant progressive legislation for the rights and welfare of Filipinos.”

While the Senate has approved the FOI Bill, the House of Representatives has yet to deliberate at the plenary on its own version of the measure.

And with only nine days left to pass bills, the youth groups said that House members pushing for the contentious measure  “shouldn’t stop now.”

Carlo Brolagda, one of FYI’s convenors, said that “failing to pass the FOI Bill would make the House fall short of fully gaining the trust of the people in its winning streak of passing long-awaited laws.”

The 15th Congress’ third regular session was deemed historic by its members for having passed several contentious measures like the Sin Tax and Reproductive Health Bills. Both have been enacted into laws last year.

“The Senate has done its part by finally approving the measure. We believe that it isn’t too much to ask for the House to do the same before the 15th Congress ends and before many of its members go on campaign mode for the elections,” said Brolagda.

Chris Alquizalas, also an FYI convenor, urged fellow youth leaders to lobby for the FOI Bill and make legislators understand “that FOI is our issue, too.”

“We young people, who will eventually inherit this government, want institutionalized mechanisms for transparency and accountability of public officials and offices,” said Alquizalas.

The FOI Bill is set to be introduced at the plenary once session resumes on Monday. Its main proponent, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, seeks to have it debated on after they are through with the sponsorship speeches.

Worried about the possibility of the FOI Bill facing the issue of lack of quorum during the last session days, Tañada has earlier called on fellow lawmakers to remember their responsibilities and duties as members of the House and attend session.
Brolagda urged lawmakers to approve the FOI Bill, vowing to monitor the measure’s progress throughout the last nine session days.

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