Lawmakers vow to block ‘right of reply’ provision in FOI bill

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

ADMINISTRATION lawmakers vowed Thursday to block any move to include the so-called "right of reply" in the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which was included in the list of priority measures of the Aquino administration.

Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone said allies of President Benigno Aquino III will block any attempt to "weaken" the purpose of the FOI bill.

The controversial bill, which would mandate the public disclosure of public records, is pending in House committee on information.


"It will water down the essence of FOI bill. We are happy that no one attempts to file a measure pushing Right to Reply bill to be included in the FOI bill," Evardone said.

Evardone said Aquino's pronouncement before foreign investors that he will include FOI in the list of priority measures he wants Congress to pass before his term ends in 2016 gives proponents morale booster to continue pushing the measure to curb graft and corruption.

The measure aims to protect and provide a system for the people's right to information as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said that once the measure becomes a law, it will be one of the "major legacies" of the Aquino administration.

"It is very clear in the Constitution that every Filipino has the right to have access to information of public concern," Baguilat said.

He noted that the passage of the long overdue measure will trigger the "misfits and scalawags in the government" to think not just twice but trice or even more before making false move.

Baguilat said he has heard that some of his colleagues want to include right to reply in the FOI bill but since there is no support, they were forced to defer their move.

For his part, Paranaque City Representative Gus Tambunting said that without an FOI Law, public officials could withhold certain documents, claiming confidentiality when all they want to do is keep secret their wrongdoings.

"The Freedom of Information Bill is a must if we want transparency and accountability in government. Dahil walang batas na FOI, kulang ang kapangyarihan ng mamamayan na makita ang buo ang nangyayari sa pamahalaan at medaling maitago ng mga kurakot na opisyal ang kanilang mga maling gawain," Tambunting said.

The proposed measure is now being consolidated by the technical working group of the committee on public information chaired by Misamis Occidental Representative Jorge Almonte and is expected to be finished before Christmas.

"Our target date is middle of 2015 to pass the measure and we are optimistic that it will pass into law as President Aquino and Speaker [Feliciano] Belmonte who vowed to pass it within the remaining term of the present administration," said Almonte. (Sunnex)

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