MANILA, Philippines – House committee on public information chairman Ben Evardone said Saturday, November 24, that he intends to put the Freedom of Information Bill to a vote when the committee reconvenes for the scheduled hearing on Tuesday, November 27.
“That is my intention, [to put it to a vote]. I will try to put to a vote all the unresolved issues also,” Evardone said.
But the main proponents of the bill expect debates over the inclusion of the right of reply provision into the consolidated bill to further delay voting.
FOI advocates have accused Evardone of “dribbling” the bill. During the last committee hearing on November 13, members failed to put the bill to a vote after they ran out of time debating about minor procedural matters raised by Nueva Ecija Rep Rodolfo Antonino. Evardone decided to adjourn the hearing despite a motion from Akbayan party-list Rep Walden Bello to put the bill into a vote.
Earlier, Evardone postponed a hearing scheduled on October 9 because he said there was no available room in the House.
Asked if Bello’s motion to approve the bill remains, Evardone said: “Basta ang agenda, FOI.”
Bello, for his part, maintained that his motion “remains in force and the committee will have to vote on it as the first order of business.”
But he said he expects Antonino, who wants in to insert a right of reply (ROR) provision in the bill, to once again delay voting.
House Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, one of the main proponents of the bill, said he is also expecting a debate over the ROR to occur in the next committee hearing.
“The ‘ball’ is in the hands of Rep. Evardone. I am expecting Rep. Antonino to insist on the ROR. I expect a debate on the ROR to happen,” Taňada said.
Congress only has 20 working days left before it goes on break for the Christmas holidays. When members go back to work on January 21, sessions will only be held for 3 weeks before Congress pauses for the campaign period of the May 2013 elections. After that, lawmakers will only go back on June 5 to officially close the 15th Congress.
FOI is yet to hurdle the first level of the legislative process. The Right to Know Right Now! Coalition has declared the bill as “dead” in the 15th Congress after the committee failed to vote on the measure during the last hearing.
Ifugao Rep Teddy Baguilat Jr, however, remained optimistic.
“I understand the frustration but I don’t want to join the morbid prognosis. There’s always still a chance we can get FOI approved,” he said. – Rappler.com