FOI advocates to march to Mendiola

MANILA, Philippines - Civil society organizations advocating for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act will march to Mendiola on Monday, November 12, to increase pressure on legislators to act on the bill as it enters crunch time. 

Led by the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, the rally will be held a day before the bill is scheduled to undergo a public hearing in the House of Representatives' Committee on Public Information.  

"Only an approval of the FOI bill on second and third reading in both Houses before adjournment on December 22 will allow it to go through bicameral conference committee in time for ratification when session resumes in January," the coalition said in a statement. 

There are only 30 working days left before Congress adjourns again on December 21. Lawmakers will only hold session for 15 working days when they return for work from January 18 to February 8 then go on recess again to give way to the campaign period of the May 2013 elections. 

An earlier scheduled committee hearing in the House of Representatives on October 9 did not push through after committee chairman Rep Ben Evardone postponed the meeting over the lack of a room. 

At least 117 representatives support the approval of the bill, based on a signature campaign led by principal authors Deputy Speaker Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada III and Akbayan Rep Walden Bello.

Tañada earlier said he was optimistic that the FOI would be approved on committee level "as long as the Chairman of the Committee has the courage to support the passing of the bill."

At the Senate, the coalition is calling on Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, a key FOI supporter, to deliver his co-sponsorship of the Senate version of the bill after public information committee chairman Sen Gringo Honasan II sponsored the FOI committee report before the Senate plenary on June 4. 

Meanwhile, Malacañang has taken a hands-off approach on the matter and does not consider FOI as a priority bill even if it has transmitted its own version to the House earlier in the year. -