MANILA –Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday expressed his full support behind the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill at the House of Representatives and expressed optimism that the proposed bill could be passed before the end of the year.
The House version of the proposed FOI bill was approved by the House Committee on Public Information earlier Wednesday, paving the way for deliberations by the plenary.
Alvarez said that while it is up to the Rules Committee to schedule the bill for plenary debates, the FOI bill may be even tackled by the House despite the on-going debates on the death penalty bill, which is the top priority legislation of the Executive Department.
“Despite the raging debates on the death penalty bill, I think it may be possible for the House to pass it (FOI) within the year,” Alvarez said.
The FOI bill, which is a consolidation of 35 proposed measures, upholds the right of every citizen to ask for and receive information from government, subject only to limited exceptions.
Among others, the bill calls for the disclosure of the SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) of certain officials as well as the publication of certain public documents in government agency websites, such as contracts and budget-related papers.
The measure also imposes administrative and criminal liabilities for violations of the law.
Advocates of the FOI touted it as one of the most effective deterrents against graft and corruption, as well as abuse of power in government.
President Rodrigo Duterte firmly supports the Freedom of Information bill and has issued an executive order to implement FOI within the Executive department.
The EO, which was signed on July 23, 2016 or two days before Duterte’s first state of the nation address, was considered a landmark action in the long fight for FOI.