Senators have passed a resolution asking the House of Representatives to ratify the Freedom of Information Act that was left hanging when the chamber adjourned for the campaign season in February.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the senators this morning signed a resolution “expressing the sense of the chamber” that the House should ratify the measure before it adjourns.

The Freedom of Information Act, which has been pending in Congress for 14 years, is almost ready for signing into law by the President. The only thing left hanging is the ratification by the House of Representatives of the bicameral conference committee report. The Senate had ratified the bicam report before adjourning in February.

Members of the Access to Information Network (ATIN) are worried that Congress is no longer in the mood to act on pending legislative measures. If Congress fails to ratify the measure, the bill will have to be refiled with the incoming 15th Congress.

Enrile said the senators have expressed their desire for the congressmen to finish the work on the FOI measure because of its importance to both the media and the public in general.

The measure effectively enforces a consititutional provision on transparency and accountability, by requiring government officials to give the public access to documents of public interest. These include contracts, deals, loans, and statements of assets and liabilities.

On the other hand, the measure also sets clear guidelines on what kinds of documents cannot be divulged to the public.

These include matters that involve pending negotiations, or operational security matters.

More importantly, the measure imposes sanctions on officials who refuse to release public documents to the media or the public.

In a press conference at 2 p.m. today, Speaker Prospero Nograles refused to committ the House into ratifying the measure until the President and the Vice President are proclaimed by the National Board of Canvassers. Both chambers of Congress have been constituted as the National Board of Canvassers to tally the votes from the May 2010 elections.

Nograles said the House would only take up the FOI bill after the President is proclaimed. He said they were looking at a proclamation by June 15, after which the House can resume tackling pending measures.

However, Enrile wondered how this could be done, since Congress would only hold court until June 4, or Friday.

After this, the 14th Congress would have already adjourned.

In addition, Enrile pointed out that the Constitution states that Congress should have adjourned at least 30 days before the convening of the next Congress.

Enrile says that for any measure to hurdle the 14th Congress, it should be acted upon by Friday, June 4.

Update 3:30 p.m.

Speaker Prospero Nograles says the chamber will include the FOI act in Congress’ legislative calendar on Friday June 4. Several legislators, however, are still expected to push for the ratification of the FIO act by today, Monday, May 31.

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