The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines – As of Tuesday, the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill remained at a standstill in the House of Representatives despite a vigorous push by its proponents.
Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone, chairman of the public information committee, said he has yet to schedule a hearing on the bill, awaiting a party leaders' caucus that he proposed to iron out contentious portions of the measure.
Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said there was no date yet set for the caucus.
Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada, one of the main authors of the bill, said there is a chance for the bill to get passed in the chamber, if it can get through the “Evardone hump.”
He said the bill has the backing of 117 lawmakers, who earlier signed a manifesto of support, and groups such as the Right to Know coalition.
“Lawmakers are genuinely committed to see this through and there are others who would have signed the manifesto but just didn’t make it to printer. There is definitely still time after the budget bill is taken up,” Tanada said.
“If we can just get over the Evardone ‘hump’ and convince him to immediately call for a public hearing on the draft substitute bill, get it out of the Committee on Public Information and unto the Plenary, then we will be able to address issues raised by other congressmen as expressed by Majority Leader Neptali Gonzalez,” the Quezon lawmaker added.
Tanada assured the public that concerns about media abuse can be addressed in the bill, and that there are adequate safeguard provisions so that it would not be used for abuse by certain groups.
“Let us not create demons in our own minds as we have full control of the final language of the law. Let’s all keep our eye on the ball - focus on the fundamentals that this bill stands for – transparency, accountability and participatory governance,” he said.
The last committee hearing on the bill was conducted last year.