House committee approves consolidated FOI bill

By , on November 25, 2014

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MANILA – After the deliberations which lasted for over a year, the consolidated version of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill was finally approved by the House committee on public information.

Voting 10-3, the committee approved the “Act to Strengthen the Right of Citizens to Information Held by the Government” consolidated from some 24 pending measures.

“This measure will give the public access to information necessary in the exercise of the people’s right to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of decision-making affecting the lives of Filipinos,” Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting, one of the authors of the measure, said.

Rep. Neri Colmenares, however said that the bill was replete with provisions that “make exceptions become the rule.”

“The draft (FOI Bill) continues to perpetuate the current limitations,” Colmenares told the panel.

The lawmaker cited what he described was a vague provision allowing the public official to deny a request for information on grounds that it may frustrate policy implementation.

“Why are we making for our people and even the media difficult to obtain information with this catch-all phrase? Any official can invoke this to block all legitimate requests. This defangs the FOI Bill,” Colmenares said.

He also expressed dismay that the committee chose to disregard his amendments despite the fact that he is one of the authors of the measures.