THE SENATE PLENARY has begun consideration of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill after the committee on public information and mass media submitted a consolidated version of the bill to the entire chamber on Monday.
Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares delivered her sponsorship speech for what she called “the People’s FOI,” saying the measure will “profoundly change our politics, our government, our society,” according to a report by GMAnews.tv, the online news site of GMA network.
Read the GMA report here.
At the same time Interaksyon.com, the online site of TV5, quoted Poe as saying that the committee had added another requirement for disclosure – that of the statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) of the President, Vice President, members of the Cabinet, all legislators, Justices of the Supreme Court, officials of constitutional bodies, and members of the armed forces with flag rank. The new provision would require these officers to make public their SALNs in their respective websites.
Read the Interaksyon story here.
FOI advocates were surprised by the speedy action of the committee on the FOI bill. The bill only stayed at the committee level for two hearings, before Senator Poe chose to endorse the consolidated measure to the plenary.
“The Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, and surely all FOI advocates are very happy with the decisive action by Senator Grace Poe, Senate President Frank Drilon, and the rest of the Senate,” said lead convenor Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan.
“The consolidated FOI bill embodies the long legislative history of the bill, striking a reasonable balance between the people’s right to know and various government concerns,” Malaluan said. “Advocates are happy not only because of the advance of FOI, but also because of the advance in people’s participation in the legislative process.”
Malaluan however acknowledged that the more difficult part is getting the lower chamber to approve the bill. Historically, the Senate has proven to be more cooperative in passing the FOI than the House of Representatives, which has blocked the FOI measure in the past two Congresses.
The measure read out to the floor is a consolidation of nine bills, the Malacanang version of the FOI, and the People’s indirect initiative the the coalition had earlier filed with both chambers of Congress.
Interaksyon’s story on the FOI bill gives a more detailed report of the contents of the bill, and the exemptions that have been allowed. Read the story here.