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Evardone 'hell-bent' on delaying FOI?

MANILA, Philippines – Will the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill move to the plenary after it hurdled the committee level this week?

Not necessarily, said the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition in a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) report Friday, November 30. 

The House Committee on Public Information approved the FOI bill on Tuesday, November 27, triggering expectations it would soon reach the plenary for voting. The committee vote was 17-3 with one abstention.

"But committee chairman Rep Ben Evardone seems hell-bent on taking his own sweet time to delay sending the committee report to the House plenary," said the PCIJ, a member of the Right to Know, Right Now! coalition.

Evardone scheduled another committee hearing on December 11, two weeks from now, to allow committee members to sign the report they approved last November 27, according to PCIJ.

“Rep Evardone must respect and do justice to the mandate of the 17 lawmakers who voted for the bill,” said lawyer Nepo Malaluan, a co-convener of the coalition. “We appeal to him to perform his duty to immediately transmit the report to the Committee on Rules.”

'Good as dead'

In an earlier interview, however, Evardone denied accusations he wants to kill the FOI bill. 

"I think the accusation that I'm trying to kill the FOI is baseless and misplaced...I would like to put it on record that I'm not against FOI. In fact, I am fully behind the spirit and intent of the FOI. It is just that there are issues and concerns that need to be resolved," Evardone said.

Meanwhile, in a statement on Thursday, November 29, the Right to Know, Right Now! coalition stressed that the FOI bill "remains as good as dead" unless President Benigno Aquino III certifies it as urgent.

The group said Aquino “can certify to the necessity of its immediate enactment, thereby placing it on par with the highest priority measures of Congress, and saving it the delay from the interval of days needed in passing bills on second and third readings.”

Aquino, however, has said the FOI bill is not his priority. – Rappler.com