House ‘kills’ FOI bill

The House of Representatives on Wednesday failed to pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which seeks to promote transparency in government transactions and data.

The chamber adjourned Wednesday’s session without a single mention of the FOI bill at the plenary. The measure has been pending at the floor since December.

The FOI bill only went as far as the period of sponsorship—the first step in plenary discussions of the measure—at the House during this Congress. The Senate was able to pass its version of the proposed legislation two months ago.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chair of the House committee on public information that passed the FOI bill last December, blamed his fellow lawmakers’ “reluctance” to pass the measure for their failure to approve the proposed legislation.

“If the congressmen were enthusiastic about it (FOI bill) and showed up during sessions, then we could have acted on it,” Evardone said in a phone interview.

He also said that he observed a “lack of support” from his colleagues in pushing for the bill’s passage.

Both houses of Congress are to take a three-month break to give way to the campaign period for the May elections. Congress will resume session in June but only from June 3 to 6 before its final adjournment.

Palace blamed

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño, however, said that Evardone himself had a hand in “killing” the FOI bill.

The measure languished before Evardone’s committee for more than a year before it was recommended for plenary debates.

Casiño also said it was President Benigno Aquino III who “spelled doom” and “built the coffin” for the FOI bill this Congress.

“Malacañang has killed the FOI bill. We express our disgust at the way the FOI bill has been killed by the President’s men in Congress,” the party-list lawmaker said.

He also criticized Aquino for his “refusal” to certify the FOI bill as urgent during the session days of the House, which the congressman said could have saved the measure.

Aquino, who won the country’s top elective post on a platform of government transparency, has repeatedly said that he supports the FOI bill. He has not, however, included the measure in his priority legislations during his almost three-year-old presidency. — KBK, , GMA News

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