The House of Representatives is being dared to hasten passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI), a piece of legislation that lifts the shroud of secrecy over government transactions and data.
The measure finally reached the Senate plenary on Monday.
Senate Bill 3208 also known as "An Act Fortifying the People's Right of Ownership over Information Held by the People's Government" was presented by its sponsor Senator Gregorio Honasan, chair of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, to the Senate plenary on Monday, two days before Congress goes on break.
"To me this is nothing short of historic,” Honasan said in a press conference after sponsoring the bill. “Medyo matagal na ang nilakbay nitong FOI bill,"
Although it took months before the bill was moved to the plenary level, Honasan said he expects the measure to be approved soon. "If we got 22 signatures [for the committee report], at nakita mo naman [ilan] ang kinonsolidate na authors, I anticipate smooth passage [of the FOI bill]."
Several senators are expected to interpellate SB 3208 on Tuesday.
Supporters of the measure thanked Honasan for his work on the proposed legislation, and dared the House of Representatives to move for the passage of the bill.
"Ilang araw na yata ang pagpaparty [sa House]… Sana naman matutukan na ito," said Philippine Center for Investigate Journalism executive director Malou Mangahas, who is also a member of the Right to Know, Right Now Coalition.
Mangahas was pertaining to the prevailing mood for partying by House prosecutors over last week’s conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona by the Senate impeachment court for failure to declare all his assets in his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN).
"Ayaw nila ng palusot, ayaw nila ng mga sikreto, ayaw nila ng nagtatago ang mga mambabatas natin. [So] walk the talk," she added during the same press briefing.
Resolve remaining issues
In a statement released Monday, the coalition called on Rep. Ben Evardone to "perform his duty as committee chairman" and immediately call for a hearing to resolve the remaining issues regarding the bill and submit a committee report for plenary action.
"We hold on to the hope that our leaders will transform rhetoric and promises into reality, and finally muster the sincerity and political will to pass the FOI law," it said.
The coalition likewise called on House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and President Benigno Aquino III to hasten its passage.
"As much as he [Belmonte] denounced the glib excuses that former Chief Justice Renato Corona gave to account for his non-disclosure of substantial dollar and peso deposits, so too we look to him to assert strong leadership to thwart glib excuses for the non-movement of the FOI in the House and get it debated and approved at the soonest," the statement read.
"We call on the executive to act on its endorsement of the FOI bill with the same resolve as it had on the postponement of the ARMM election, the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the ongoing legislation of the sin taxes. Given the apparent resistance to FOI in the House of Representatives, strong executive support is imperative for the FOI law to finally pass," it added.
In his sponsorship speech, Honasan said the FOI bill will afford citizens the opportunity to look into the workings of the branches of government and the different agencies.
SB 3208 imposes a speedy procedure for access to information and identifies a list of documents of high public interest to be disclosed without need for an official request.
"A government of the people, by the people, and for the people is a government owned by the people. And only when the people are empowered with information and the truth can there be genuine democracy and ownership," said Honasan.
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
House dared to pass FOI bill as it reaches Senate plenary