MEMBERSHIP in the House Committee on Public Information, the body that will be tasked with shepherding the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill through Congress, looks like a who’s who in Philippine politics and media.
So far, 27 legislators have already signed up for membership in the public information committee, including a former television journalist, a former newspaper journalist, a movie actress and television show host, a former television director, and a former police general.
Heading the committee is former Oroquieta City mayor Jorge T. Almonte. Almonte was picked by House leaders to head the committee after their original choice, Rep. Rodel Batocabe, refused to take part in what he called “a no win” situation.
Batocabe said that whoever heads the committee would be in for a rough time, because the controversial bill is being opposed by many members of the House of Representatives. The bill had also been hobbled by President Benigno S. Aquino’s reluctance to endorse the FOI, despite his earlier pronouncements to support the bill during the 2010 presidential campaign.
The vice chairmen of the committee are former police general and PNP spokesman Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil, former public information committee chairman Ben Evardone, and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro.
Evardone, a former newspaperman and Samar governor, had chaired the public information committee during the 15th Congress. Evardone had been criticized by FOI advocates for allegedly dribbling the bill at the committee level, and passing the measure to the plenary when there was no more time left for floor debates.
Also members of the committee are Diwa party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio. Aglipay was earlier endorsed by FOI advocates to head the public information committee because of her position in favor of the FOI measure. Tinio had also been offered by the House minority as a possible chairman of the committee after Batocabe expressed his apprehensions over heading the body.
Two former local government officials are also in the committee: former Zamboanga City mayor Celso Lobregat and former Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia.
Other members of the committee include former ABS-CBN television reporter Sol Aragones, former television director Lino Cayetano, and television personality Lucy Torres-Gomez.
Andres SalvacionRodrigo AbellanosaEric SingsonRosendo LabadlabadMaximo DalogRogelio EspinaIsagani AmatongXavier Jesus RomualdoEufranio EriguelMarlyn Primicias-AgabasMilagros TanJose PanganibanErlpe John AmanteNeil Benedict MontejoErlinda Santiago