Congress will pass FOI law, Belmonte says

Posted at 01/20/14 6:45 PM

MANILA - House Speaker Sonny Belmonte on Monday assured the public that a Freedom of Information (FOI) law will be passed during the current Congress.

Belmonte said he has discussed the matter with Committee on Public Information Chairman Jorge Almonte.

"I'll see to it it gets passed during this current Congress," he said. "Nag-usap na kami nung araw, 'pag-aralan niyong mabuti.' We intend to get it passed during our term."

Almonte has been criticized for the slow pace of the committee's proceedings. The committee has met only twice since the 16th Congress began its term July 1, 2013.

Committee deliberations were sidelined by plenary budget deliberations, as well as problems constituting the committee membership and getting a venue for the meetings.

A technical working group was supposed to be convened to consolidate at least 19 versions of the FOI bill for committee approval.

The consolidated bill is expected next month.

The FOI bill has been a contentious issue in Congress, with some lawmakers pushing for a right-of-reply rider in the FOI.

A right-of-reply rider will require that subjects of news reports be given equal space and time respond to stories about them.

This raises questions on prior restraint, which is barred by the Constitution.

Congressional insiders have also indicated lawmakers maybe lukewarm to passing an FOI bill following the massive media coverage of the pork barrel scam, which resulted in the abolition of legislators' pork barrel.