Poe sees Senate OK of FOI bill by end of year
MANILA - Representatives from the media, government and academe attended the public hearing on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill Wednesday morning in the Senate.
Among those who participated in the panel were former Congressman and FOI advocate Erin Tanada, UP professor Clarita Carlos , blogger Tonyo Cruz, Rappler's Maria Ressa, executives of TV stations and ABS-CBN Bayan Mo Ipatrol Mo's (BMPM) Rowena Paraan.
This is the second and final public hearing of the FOI bill, prior to the passage of the report of the Commitee on Public Information and Mass Media.
Committee chairman Grace Poe said the panel wants to reconcile at least 10 different versions of the FOI bill to have one working version.
In the discussions, the panelists were all in agreement that a freedom of information bill would result in a more accountable, transparent and responsive government, and reiterated the urgency of the passage of the bill.
They say that lack of access to information fosters a culture of impunity, and that the discretion of government agencies should not be taken into account in the disclosure of public records.
ABS-CBN's Rowena Paraan said that the FOI bill is not only for the media, but for ordinary citizens who need also information and more ready access to public records.
Key points of discussion were on the capability of the government to provide the information and be more responsive in the face of technological advancements, particularly on how they can be compliant on web uploading.
The Office of the Ombudsman also pointed out the expected deluge of complaints stemming from the FOI. The OMB said that there should also be provision where the use of the information would also be regulated.
Senator Poe said that her committee aims to submit its report by September 23, legislation sponsorship by September 25, and approval on third reading in the Senate within this year.
"Pasado na sa committee, kasi meron namang mga basic provisions dyan na we really agree on. Siguro yung isa na lang na babalikan natin yung compliance ng government, yung actual particular details how the government can be compliant in terms of technology, but the basic principles nandun na po," Poe said.
Last Congress, the FOI bill was passed in third and final reading in the Senate, but its counterpart bill in the lower house was held up at the committee level.
However, the Senate is optimistic that with the Palace's support, there would be no more problem with the passage of the bill in the House.