DEPUTY SPEAKER Lorenzo ‘Erin’ R. Tañada III, speaking at a forum in Ateneo de Davao on Tuesday, said that he is working double time with fellow FOI champions at the House of Representatives to push for a committee vote on the FOI bill on August 7, the date publicly announced by Committee Chairman Ben Evardone as the scheduled committee hearing on FOI.
Tañada, who heads the committee’s Technical Working Group (TWG), said that the FOI is already ripe for a vote at the committee level. He said that he and other FOI champions are in dialogue with Rep. Ben Evardone to try to agree on a commonly-supported bill.
“All the concerns of the executive, stakeholders, as well as my colleagues in Congress have been considered in the consolidated bill proposed by the TWG. Only two contentious issues remain: first, whether the committee will agree to insert a right of reply provision in the FOI law as proposed by Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, or settle for an alternative provision to safeguard against fears of citizens and media abuse of FOI; and second, whether the committee will agree to extend the coverage of the FOI law to the private sector as proposed by Rep. Pedro Romualdo,” Tañada explained.
In addition to the contentious issues, Tañada added that Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna during the last hearing has reserved an opportunity to give his position on the major amendments proposed by Malacañang.
Tañada disclosed that a group of FOI champions including Reps. Jun Abaya, Walden Bello, Teddy Baguilat, Cinchona Cruz-Gonzalez, and Kaka Bag-ao are working to expand the core of committed FOI champions in the House. One initiative led by Rep. Walden Bello is to get their colleagues in Congress to openly declare their commitment to pass the FOI in an informal manifesto.
Tañada said that there is a clear window to finish deliberations of the FOI in plenary before the budget takes center stage in the order of business. But for this to happen, the bill should not face any further delays at the committee.
“All members have been given enough time and opportunity to study the bill and the remaining contentious issues, and there is no reason why the committee will not be prepared to come to a consensus or put the matter to a vote on August 7,” Tañada concluded. #