Senate to fast track priority bills, including FOI

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

SENATE is back to work on Monday, January 20 to accomplish priority bills and fast track deliberation on key economic measures.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate's priority bills include the controversial Freedom of Information bill (FOI Bill) authored by Senator Grace Poe who is also the chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media.

Poe in a radio interview said she is confident that Congress will prioritize this very important bill.

Some of the provisions of the bill mandates all government agencies to disclose information in public interest transaction, documents or records and provide other information as requested by the public.

Government agencies will be required to disclose through posting in their respective bulletin boards and official websites, transactions such as contracts with private sector, procurement contract, loans and grants and other programs entered into by government agencies with other entities, private organization or foreign institution.

Poe said, also under the bill, the following officials are mandated to disclose through the websites of their respective offices the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) on an annual basis; the President; the Vice President; members of the Cabinet; members of the Senate; House of Representatives; the Justices of the Supreme Court; the Commissioners of the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional officers; and the officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the rank of General or the equivalent flag rank.

In his press statement, Drilon said senators “are deeply committed to intensify the campaign against corrupt practices." The FOI bill, he said, would enable significant steps in curbing corruption in Philippine bureaucracy.

“We will continue the intensive discussions we had before we went on a break with the FOI bill, which is now in advanced stages of legislation,” Drilon said.

Last Congress, the Senate was able to pass the FOI Bill but the measure got stuck at the committee level at the House of Representative.

According to the Senate President, the enactment of the FOI Bill into law “will encourage active participation in the governance process and will introduce new levels of accountability by increased public scrutiny.”

The senate suffered a big blow after the recent Pulse Asia survey revealed that the public is disappointed with the Senate as a body and earned also criticism due to the involvement of its members to pork scam while three other senators that include Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Bong Revilla were alleged linked to pork scam queen Janet Lim Napoles.

Revilla according to reports is expected to deliver a privilege speech regarding the pork scam scandal.

Drilon said senators are already working on Senate Bill No. 470, which seeks to introduce reforms to the current Sandiganbayan Law, in order to “expedite the disposition of numerous ongoing cases bogged-down in the anti-graft court.

Aside from anti-corruption measures, Drilon said the Senate will also tackle other measures which would sustain the country’s economic growth, along with legislation that would capacitate the “adequate protection of our national interests.”

"We have been also striving towards the immediate passage of Senate Bill No. 2043, which will establish the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) as the sole administrative agency responsible for the implementation of the International Convention of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping of the country’s seafarers. The measure would allow us to avoid a European Union ban that could possibly capsize the local maritime industry,” he explained.

The senators are also expected to act on Senate Bill No. 2046, or the “Go Negosyo Act of 2013” introduced by Senator Bam Aquino, which would promote the national development of micro, small and medium enterprises as a potential tool towards reducing the country’s poverty rate.

Drilon said the Senate will “strongly consider” Senate Bill No. 819 being pushed by Senator Antonio ‘Sonny” Trillanes, that aims to create a fully independent national agency similar to the United State’s Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) to address the natural and man-made disasters that would hit the country.

He said that they would “urgently address” Senate Bill No. 480 and Senate Joint Resolution No. 2, both of which are intended to provide for the “long –requested and much-clamored increases” in the quarterly and subsistence allowances of enlisted personnel and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and commissioned and non-commissioned personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Earlier, the Senate chief said he will also give weight to the passage of Fiscal Incentive Rationalization bill which seeks to remove excessive or unnecessary incentives granted to businesses and investors.

Drilon said that the senate will continue to prioritize bills that will promote and accelerate economic growth. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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