THE CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE committee on public information has promised to begin committee hearings on the Freedom of Information bill beginning October 22.
Advocates of the FOI bill who assembled by the Batasan gates on the eve of the International Right to Know Day received the good news from Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, himself an advocate of the FOI.
Baguilat said he was informed by committee chairman Jorge Almonte that the committee will begin tackling the measure by next month. Almonte has been under pressure to begin committee hearings on the FOI.
At the same time fellow FOI advocate Rep. Walden Bello told the assembled advocates that Almonte had also committed to pro-FOI legislators that committee hearings would be held at least once every two weeks until the measure is ready to be reported to the plenary.
The previous committee chairman, Rep. Ben Evardone, had been criticized for delaying consideration of the bill until the last minute, when there was no longer any time to deliberate the measure on the House Floor.
Right to Know, Right Now! lead convenor Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan said advocates were heartened by the reports of Baguilat and Bello, and expressed hopes that Almonte would be true to his word.
Malaluan said the news was particularly encouraging since the Senate has already begun floor deliberations on its own version of the bill. The Senate committee on public information finished its hearings on its own version of the FOI bill in just two meetings, and reported the consolidated committee report on the Senate floor last week.
Historically, the Senate has always been the chamber friendlier to the FOI. Previous attempts to have an FOI measure passed by Congress were always stymied by legislators at the lower chamber.
FOI advocates assembled in front of the South Gate of the Batasang Pambansa Friday night, the eve of the International Right to Know Day, to remind Congress that they were still waiting for the chamber to act on the bill.
The advocates lit candles and sang songs in front of the gate, while pro-FOI legislators stepped out to meet and greet the advocates. The chamber was working on overtime in order to pass the 2014 budget.
FOI supporters had been encouraged to light candles on their own as part of a #LightUp4FOI campaign on social media.
Some of those who posted photos for the #LightUp4FOI campaign on social media include:
Students from University of the Philippines Los Banos