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MANILA, Philippines -- Leaders of the House of Representatives said they are putting aside discussions on the Freedom of Information bill until after the chamber votes on whether debates on the Reproductive Health bill should be terminated.
The House public information committee was supposed to hold a hearing on the FOI bill, which seeks to give people more access to government records, on August 7.
The hearing was supposed to finalize the version of the bill to be submitted for voting.
However, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone, chairman of the House public information committee, said they had agreed that the measure would be tackled after the voting on the RH bill, which has also been scheduled on August 7.
"We do (the) RH bill first. I will talk to chairman Evardone," Belmonte said.
Evardone acknowledged that many groups pushing for the FOI bill’s passage are becoming impatient because of its slow movement at the committee level, but said he has to consider the views of other lawmakers, including those who insist on incorporating provisions on the right to reply.
Evardone said he would request Belmonte to call for a caucus of administration coalition leaders to get their consensus on the FOI bill for the measure’s smooth passage.
"I will ask the Speaker to call for a meeting of the coalition members so we can discuss the final version, and so that there will be less debates on the floor," he said.
The FOI nearly became a law in the 14th Congress but was killed by a lack of quorum just before the House was supposed to vote on its ratification.
The speedy enactment of the measure was one of the campaign promises of President Benigno Aquino III.
However, soon after he assumed office, he insisted that a Palace-drafted version should be passed instead of that earlier crafted by lawmakers with inputs from freedom of information advocates.
Malacanang cited concerns about possible abuse of the law.