MANILA, Philippines – ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio, chairperson of the House public information committee, said on Wednesday, August 17, that the 17th Congress can pass the freedom of information (FOI) bill within the year.
“Our number one priority here is to pass the Freedom of Information Act. I think we have a good chance of passing the Freedom of Information Act within the 17th Congress. Initially, the realistic target is to pass it within the year,” Tinio said in Filipino.
He said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order mandating full public disclosure of all offices under the executive branch shows that the FOI bill’s passage is a priority of the current administration.
Duterte even listed the FOI bill as part of his legislative agenda during his first State of the Nation Address.
“Ang pinakamalaking balakid noong nakaraang Kongreso ay ang Malacañang…. Initially, pinangako ni Pangulong [Bengino] Aquino [III]. Essentially, 'nilaglag niya kaya hindi naitulak,” said Tinio.
(The biggest hurdle in the past Congress was Malacañang.... President Benigno Aquino III promised it. Essentially, he dropped it later on so it wasn't pushed.)
The previous Congress failed to pass the FOI bill, causing a huge disappointment among civic groups and watchdogs that had been clamoring for its passage. (READ: Why the Philippines needs a freedom of information law)
“Now, among Duterte's first executive orders is about freedom of information. Malacañang has set the tone and showed that freedom of information and transparency is a priority of the administration,” said Tinio.
According to him, Congress is now challenged to finally pass the FOI bill into law.
Several lawmakers have re-filed their own versions of the FOI bill in the 17th Congress. They include Laguna 3rd District Representative Sol Aragones, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilar Jr, Quezon City 6th District Representative Jose Christopher Belmonte, Cebu 1st District Representative Raul del Mar, Kabayan Representative Harry Roque, and Quezon City 5th District Representative Alfred Vargas.
“In our version, we will make sure that the Freedom of Information Act will not be watered down through exceptions. In the past Congress, we voted no on the substitute Freedom of Information Act because we felt there were far too many exceptions inserted by Malacañang in the so-called Malacañang version,” said the lawmaker. – Rappler.com