MANILA — Advocates of the proposed Freedom of Information Act (FOI) hailed the House committee on Public Information for approving the consolidated version and had been endorsed for second reading.
The substitute House Bill 5801, the committee report on the proposed measure was filed Monday at the Bills and Index Service for referral to the committee on Rules which will eventually calendar the measure for 2nd reading.
“This is yet another step forward in our quest for a transparent and accountable government befitting the Filipino people,” Akbayan Party-list Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.
“We are looking forward to the plenary debates on the bill which are certainly bound to be challenging. But we are already prepared to answer any and all questions relating to the various issues and concerns about the FOI. With strong support from the various FOI legislator-champions and the public, we are optimistic the bill will make it to second reading before session adjourns on June 10,” Gutierrez added.
He also attested that the committee-approved FOI has been extensively discussed to make sure the bill protects the people’s right to information and makes it an effective weapon against corruption.
“The TWG devoted nine meetings to deliberating the bill line-by-line, particularly on the exceptions. Not only did we make sure that each exception related to protecting an acceptable, legitimate and clearly stated public interest, we also adopted strong safeguards to counter any tendency to abuse those exceptions,” the lawmaker said.
“For example, the government agency has the burden of proving the legal and factual basis in claiming an exception. Each exception shall be interpreted strictly, not liberally. Further, any exception shall not be invoked to cover up a crime, wrongdoing, graft, or corruption,” Gutierrez explained.
After the filing of the committee report, the proposed law is expected to be included in the Order of Business and referred to the Committee on Rules. The Committee on Rules, in consultation with the House leadership, shall calendar it for consideration on Second Reading.
It can be recalled that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. vowed to pass the measure before the 16th Congress adjourn sine die.