FOI hearings to resume October 15

Posted at 09/22/12 1:08 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The House committee on public information will resume hearings on the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in October when Congress resumes session, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said Friday.

Belmonte said he talked to Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the panel, on the resumption of hearings on the FOI bill that was stalled owing to developments in the chamber, including deliberations on the proposed P2.006-trillion national budget for 2013.

Congress went on break yesterday after approving the General Appropriations Bill (GAB) on second reading.

The GAB is expected to be passed on third and final reading by mid-October.

Evardone said to be expected in the hearing is the continuing debate on contentious provisions in the bill, including proposals by some congressmen to insert a “right of reply” provision.

The provision is strongly opposed by journalists and media entities as well as rights watchdogs.

He said it is possible that committee members would be voting on a consolidated version of the FOI bill before the end of the year.

Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, the principal author of the measure, said nearly half of the 284-member chamber is backing the FOI bill.

The bill would allow the public to access government contracts, documents and other information following a formal request.

Under the measure, the concerned government agency is mandated to reply to the requesting party within 15 days.