11 October 2013

[FYI in Manila Bulletin] Youths urge congress: Act quickly on FOI bill

by Ellson Quismorio

Manila, Philippines – Youth groups called on members of the House of Representatives (HoR) to act speedily for the passage of the People’s Freedom of Information (FOI) Act just days before the resumption of sessions of the 16th Congress.

Pressuring the congressmen — who are still on vacation — is the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI), an alliance of 139 organizations of youth and student leaders who said legislators have a lot to prove in the light of the recent episodes of alleged corruption.

“(They must) show sincerity in their desire to cleanse government of corruption and to turn it into an institution worthy of the citizens’ trust,” said FYI convener Allan Pangilinan.

The multi-billion peso pork barrel scandal delivered a huge black eye to both chambers of Congress, and it’s a black eye that proponents of the pro-transparency bill claimed could have been avoided with a timely passage of an FOI Act.

“The Senate is already moving quickly to pass the People’s FOI Act. The House of Representatives, however, has yet to even refer the bill filed through indirect initiative by the people to the Committee on Public Information,” Panaligan said.

Pangilinan, along with AJ Montesa of the UP Economics Towards Consciousness (ETC), are the signatories of the FYI in the petition for indirect initiative and in the People’s FOI Act filed by the groups comprising the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition.

“We were there when we filed the bill last July 1, the first day of submission of legislative measures in Congress. More than three months have passed, and the Committee on Rules headed by Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II has not yet referred the proposal to the appropriate committee,” said Pangilinan.

The House Committee on Public Information chaired by Misamis Oriental Rep. Jorge Almonte has scheduled its first meeting on October 22 and is expected to tackle the various FOI bills and resolutions filed so far in the HoR. The Lower Chamber reconvenes this coming Monday, October 14.

“During this time when the people are slowly losing hope in the government, it is incumbent upon our elected representatives in the House to act swiftly and concretely in restoring our trust,” Pangilinan said.

“We call on Majority Leader Gonzales to immediately refer the People’s FOI Act to the House Committee on Public Information when their session resumes on October 14. Once this happens, we then call on Rep. Jorge Almonte, the chair of the committee, to be decisive in approving the consolidated proposals for FOI so that it may be tackled and passed by the House of Representatives once and for all. We, the people, expect nothing less from those who are mandated to represent our interests,” said the convener.

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