Belmonte gives up hope on FOI bill

With only three session days left to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI), House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday said the proposed legislation is “technically” dead at the House of Representatives.

When asked by reporters if there is no more hope for the House approval of the FOI bill within the week, Belmonte replied, “Yes. I think so.”He said three session days are not enough to debate on, amend and approve the measure, which seeks to promote transparency in government data and transactions.

“We cannot just curtail interpellation. May mga gustong mag-interpellate,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte, however, said there is still a “slim chance” to pass the FOI bill if President Benigno Aquino III will certify it as urgent.

“If the President certifies it, we can meet beyond Wednesday and Thursday. In that sense, there’s still that slim chance. Hanggang alas-dose ng gabi, basta huwag lang mawala ang quorum,” he said.

Malacañang, however, maintained that Aquino—who won the presidency on a platform of government transparency—is not keen on certifying the FOI bill as urgent without debates at the House.

The Senate last December unanimously passed its version of the FOI. At the House, the measure has yet to end the period of sponsorship—the first step in the plenary discussions of a proposed legislation.

Push for debates

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, primary author of the FOI bill, admitted that while the FOI bill now needs a “miracle” to be passed, he will still push for debates on it.

“We can debate on the FOI on the floor with anyone who is interested to debate with the sponsors,” Tañada said in a text message.

“I would rather try to push the FOI as far as I and the sponsors can and let it be known that it was again the House members, including the minority, who killed the FOI due to lack of quorum,” he added.

Congress is scheduled to adjourn on Wednesday, February 7, to give lawmakers who are candidates in the May 2013 elections the chance to campaign. — Andreo Calonzo/KBK, GMA News

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