By: Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon.com November 26, 2013 5:22 PM
MANILA, Philippines -- Proponents of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in the House of Representatives have moved to have a consolidated measure by February 14 amid opposition by some members of the public information committee in Tuesday's hearing.
A vote of 10-5 carried the motion of DIWA party-list Representative Emmeline Aglipay for the consolidated bill to be ready in three months.
There are more than 10 versions of the bill filed before the committee, but a group of proponents led by Aglipay said the panel can just adopt the version approved during the 15th Congress.
That version guarantees the public's access to government information with a few exceptions deemed of a sensitive nature. It also did not contain a right-of-reply provision, a deal-breaker in past debates because opposers deemed it as encroaching on the constitutional guarantee of press freedom, which has always been protected by a self-regulatory system among mass media entities and practitioners.
Earlier in the day, several proponents issued a manifesto urging the immediate passage of the bill.
"We, the elected Representatives of the 16th Congress, are one with the people in the struggle for transparency and accountability in government through the enactment of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act," it said.
"We recognize that the proposed FOI Act will ultimately strengthen the faith of the people that we represent in the institutions that we serve. With its approval, we will be able to give our constituents a government that is worthy of their trust," it added.
The manifesto said that the proposed FOI bill would be a tool for participatory governance.
"We acknowledge the concerns of fellow government officials over the possible abuse of information once we have an FOI Act in place. However, this must never be a reason to fail in passing this important law. Our fears are allayed by our faith in the people to exercise
their right responsibly and our faith in Congress to provide safeguards against abuse that will not hamper constitutionally guaranteed liberties," it said.
"We call on our colleagues to join us in our commitment to strengthen our efforts in ensuring that the FOI Act will be enacted in order to enhance transparency and accountability in our government and reaffirm its commitment as an institution that is open and honest to the people that we serve," said the manifesto.
It was signed by the following:
1. Rep. Emmeline Aglipay (DIWA Party-List)
2. Rep. Nicasio Aliping (Lone District of Baguio City)
3. Rep. Kaka Bag-ao (Lone District of Dinagat Islands)
4. Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr. (Lone District of Ifugao)
5. Rep. Walden Bello (AKBAYAN Party-List)
6. Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte (6th District of Quezon City)
7. Rep. Anthony Bravo (COOP NATCCO Party-List)
8. Rep. Winnie Castelo (2nd District of Quezon City)
9. Rep. Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (CIBAC Party-List)
10. Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez III (AKBAYAN Party-List)
11. Rep. Cresente Paez (COOP NATCCO Party-List)
12. Rep. Leah Paquiz (ANG NARS Party-List)
13. Rep. Roman Romulo (Lone District of Pasig)
14. Rep. Gus Tambunting (2nd District of Parañaque City)
15. Rep. Marcelino Teodoro (1st District of Marikina City)
16. Rep. Sherwin Tugna (CIBAC Party-List)