FOI Bill Has 117 Votes In Congress

Freedom of Information bill (FOI) authors Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III and Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said the FOI bill has 117 votes in the House of Representatives.

“We have 117 votes for the FOI bill. We will publish newspapers ads on Monday,” said Tañada

The newspaper ads that will be published on August 6 will show the signatures of all 117 members who support the bill. Tañada along with Akbayan and the Right To Know Right Now coalition led the signature campaign.

Bello said the result of their signature campaign should belie claims that there is little support for the FOI bill in the lower House.

“All of us are united in the belief that transparency and accountability will only be institutionalized if there is a law that prioritizes the people’s right to unimpeded access to government information,” Bello said in a statement.

The FOI bill seeks to impose speedy procedures for obtaining documents of high public interest like the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) of government officials.

The FOI bill remains on the first stage of the legislative process. It is pending approval on first reading before the committee on public information.

Tañada and Bello have expressed disapointment in committee chairman and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone for failing to put the bill to a vote.

Evardone earlier announced that they would vote on it on August 7, Tuesday. But House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte told him to reschedule because he wants to hold a caucus first.

In the Senate, the FOI bill was endorsed to the plenary in June.

There’s little time left to tackle pending bills in the current 15th Congress. Based on the calendar of House majority leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, bills must be approved within the month of August. By September, the House plenary will shelve all other bills to prioritize deliberations on the 2013 national budget.

The House leadership wants to pass the budget before they go into another long break in October for the filing of certificates of candidacies. Gonzales said it may be difficult to muster a quorum after October because of the coming elections.

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