Evardone on FOI: ‘Give up, surrender, white flag’
MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – Is there hope for the Freedom of Information bill in the 15th Congress with only 3 session days left?
For Eastern Samar Rep Ben Evardone, chair of the House committee on public information, the chances are nil.
Asked whether he has given up on passing the FOI bill in the 15th Congress, Evardone said in an ambush interview, “[I] give up, surrender. Ano pang gusto ninyo? (What else do you want?) White flag."
As the chair of the House committee on public information, Evardone is tasked to defend the FOI bill before the plenary. But he himself has admitted he had reservations about the measure.
But Deputy Speaker Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada, the main proponent of the measure, said other authors of the bill are not hoisting the white flag just yet.
"I heard Ben is waiving the white flag. I guess it is his nature. The records of the Committee and the history of FOI will judge him," Tañada said.
FOI advocates have slammed Evardone for delaying the vote on the FOI. After FOI was approved on committee level, Evardone scheduled another committee hearing just to approve the committee report, which is usually just circulated among members for signature before it goes to plenary.
Tañada had also earlier criticized Evardone for failing to schedule enough committee hearings to tackle FOI. In one instance, Evardone postponed a scheduled hearing over the supposed lack of an available room.
Tañada called on Evardone to delegate the authority to defend the FOI on the floor to him or his fellow FOI proponents, Ifugao Rep Teddy Baguilat Jr or Akbayan Rep Walden Bello.
"I would rather try to push FOI as far as I and the sponsors can and let it be known that it was again the House members, including the minority, who killed FOI due to lack of quorum," Tañada said.
"If Rep 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," Tañada added.
No time left
With only a week left before Congress adjourns for the campaign period of the May elections, the measure has yet to undergo the first stage of the 2nd reading -- the period of interpellations and debates, where sponsors of the bill will field questions and defend the measure from its critics.
The bill will then have to go through the period of amendments before it undergoes a 2nd reading vote. Only then can a 3rd reading vote commence.
The Senate, for its part, passed its version of the bill on 3rd and final reading in December.
Evardone said he would have wanted the FOI to be passed on 2nd reading this week to give lawmakers ample time to act on the measure.
According to Evardone, his preferred timeline would have been: “[As per] the 3-day rule, Monday, approval on 3rd reading then Tuesday, bicam. Wednesday, ratification of the bicam report."
House rules indicate that unless a bill approved on 2nd reading is certified as urgent, it would have to wait 3 days before it goes through a 3rd reading vote.
On Wednesday, Ifugao Rep Teddy Baguilat was allowed to deliver his sponsorship speech on the FOI but session was suspended without starting the period of interpellation and debates for the bill.
In August 2012, at least 117 members of the House pledged support for the FOI through a signature campaign launched by its proponents.
But what was indicated on paper was not reflected on plenary.
FOI in the 16th Congress
Evardone said he will re-file the FOI bill in the 16th Congress if “given the chance.”
“Another bakbakan na naman yan in the 16th Congress (It will be another fight in the 16th Congress),” he said.
Asked whether proponents of the Right of Reply (ROR) provision would once again push for its insertion into the FOI, Evardone said, “Wala na si [Nueva Ecija Rep] Rudy Antonino sa 16th Congress (Nueva Ecija Rep Rudy Antonino will not be in the 16th Congress anymore).”
Antonino is a staunch advocate of the ROR provision. He is currently on his final term as representative.
But Evardone also noted that Tañada will not be returning in the 16th Congress as well. Like Antonino, Tañada is serving his 3rd and final term as a congressman. – Rappler.com