31 January 2013

[FYI in Sun.Star] Evardone blamed for 'death' of FOI bill

The death of the freedom of information (FOI) bill in the House of Representatives can be blamed on the "legislative malpractice" of Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone, a youth group said Thursday.

"It was 'Doctor' Evardone who declared that the FOI Bill was 'dead' due to lack of time and quorum in the House of Representatives. However, it is clear that the main cause was 'legislative malpractice' on his part," Carlo Brolagda, convenor of the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) said.

Evardone is the chairman of the House committee on public information.

The FOI bill languished in the committee level for more than a year before it was approved and transmitted to the plenary.

"He made us wait until the final months before the start of the 2013 elections, and made so many excuses like the absence of a Liberal Party position on the bill to the unavailability of a room to house the meeting," Brolagda said.

Due to lack of warm bodies in the plenary, Evardone and FOI main author Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III were only able to deliver their sponsorship speeches last Monday.

Tañada, for his part, said it was in Evardone's nature to raise the white flag on the FOI bill.

"I heard Ben is waiving the white flag. I guess it is his nature. The records of the committee and the history of the FOI will judge him," he said.  

While the FOI bill was being deliberated upon in his committee, Evardone himself was hesitant to approve the proposed consolidated FOI bill without a right of reply (ROR) provision.

The ROR provision will require media outfits to allot equal amount of space or airtime for public officials facing accusations from information gathered through the proposed FOI law.  

Tañada said he, along with the other authors of the bill, will push the FOI as far as they can in the present 15th Congress.

Tañada urged Evardone to delegate his authority – as chairman of the House committee on public information – to the authors of the FOI bill so that it can be debated upon in the plenary.

"If Representative Ben refuses to delegate his authority, then it becomes quite obvious to everyone that he also doesn't want FOI to be debated on the floor," he said.

For his part, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. refused to say that the FOI bill is "dead."

"It's better to say it's in a state of anguish and hibernation and shall spring to life in the 16th Congress," Baguilat said in a text message.

Lawmakers who refused to be named earlier said it is Malacañang itself who does not want the FOI bill enacted into law. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex, 31 January 2013

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