Tañada: Some lawmakers 'misguided' on FOI bill

Posted at 01/29/13 9:32 PM

MANILA -- House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo "Erin" Tañada III, the principal author of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, on Tuesday said lawmakers in favor of the bill should continue pushing for its passage despite  fears it may be abused.

"Kung kayo po ay talagang pabor sa FOI pero meron kayong agam-agam, bakit ayaw ninyong umusad 'yung debates para pagusapan natin 'to?" he asked.

The House of Representatives again failed to tackle the FOI bill on Tuesday after failing to muster a quorum.

Tañada said if they try to continue with the sponsorship of the bill even without a quorum, some members of the minority and those who seek the right of reply provision will threaten to question the House quorum.

"Nawalan po tayo ng quorum. As a matter of fact, si Cong. Walden Bello tried to...ask kung pwedeng maski walang quorum ma-defend na 'yung bill."

"If we do that, eh merong tatayo at mag-question ng quorum," he said.

Tañada said the right of reply provision was proposed by Rep. Rodolfo Antonino amid concerns that information obtained through an FOI law could be used against fellow lawmakers.

"May kaba po siya na baka 'yung impormasyong makukuha mula sa iba't-ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan ay baka magamit laban sa mga nakaupong lingkod-bayan," he said.

"Baka meron pong tinatago, merong tatamaan... Meron rin 'yung pwedeng mag-abuse o misuse ng information," he added.

However, Tañada said House members who fear a possible misuse of the information obtained via an FOI law seem to be "misguided."
"How is information misused if the information is correct?" he asked.

Tañada said this confusion among lawmakers is the primary reason why the Congress should continue on with its debates regarding the bill.

Exercise people's participation

He also noted that an FOI law would not only benefit media organizations but also civil society.

"Ito'y tool ng good governance, accountability at transparency," Tañada said.

"In order para ma-exercise po natin ng mabuti ang people's participation, they have to be informed of what is going on," he added.

Tañada said with only five days left before the Congress adjourns for the upcoming mid-term elections, he can only hope that the House will be able to approve the bill on second reading next week.

"Well ako, basta, susubukan talaga namin na pagbotohan na on second reading maski sa Miyerkules next week," he said.

He said, however, that if the bill is not yet approved and not endorsed as urgent by the Palace, the FOI bill will become one of the "longest bills being processed in the House of Representatives."