FOI may pass Congress before the year ends

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY  (MindaNews/29 May) —  The Freedom of Information bill (FOI)  may become a law soon, Deputy House Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada,  its principal author, said.

The FOI bill is set for approval in the Committee level before Congress goes on recess on June 9, he said.

Once it becomes law, the FOI will promote transparency in government as it will strengthen the people’s right to information which is mandated in the Constitution, he said.

Tanada said the law sets the presumption that the people have the right to public information and shifts the burden of proof to government if it decides to withhold certain public information.

Although the FOI is not listed as a priority bill of Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino, Tanada, a Liberal Party stalwart said he is confident that the President will support the passage of the bill.

“There is an ongoing dialogue between Malacanang and Congress on the FOI, and I am confident that this will be approved on third and final reading before the year ends,” Tanada said.

By 2012, the FOI may go through deliberations in the House and Senate Bicameral Committee before final approval. Once approved by the Bicameral Committee, the proposed law is sent back to the Senate and the House of Representatives for ratification.

After ratification by both chambers, it is sent to the President who has 30 days to sign it into law or veto it.

The FOI bill has been in filed since the 8th Congress. It almost became a law in 2010 before the end of the 14th Congress but it turned out to be the infamous exit of then Speaker Prospero Nograles.

“It had already passed the Bicameral Committee, the Senate had ratified it but unfortunately then Speaker of the House Prospero Nograles did not have serious efforts to ratify the FOI bill,” Tanada said. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)