Following the Senate plenary endorsement on Monday, a coalition pushing for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill has dared the House of Representatives to immediately act on its version of the legislation.
In a statement, the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition called on Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone to “perform his duty as committee [on public information] chairman” and schedule a hearing to resolve the remaining issues on the said bill.
The coalition also asked Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to include the FOI bill in the House priority measures.
“As much as he (Belmonte) denounced the glib excuses that former Chief Justice Renato Corona gave to account for his non-disclosure of substantial dollar and peso deposits, so too must he assert strong leadership to thwart glib excuses for the non-movement of the FOI in the House and get it debated and approved at the soonest,” the groupsaid.
“We hold on to the hope that our leaders will transform rhetoric and promises into reality, and finally muster the sincerity and political will to pass the FOI law,” it added.
The coalition’s statement came immediately after Sen. Gregorio Honasan endorsed the Senate version of the FOI bill, renamed as the People’s Ownership of Government Information Act, for plenary approval yesterday.
“Only when the people are empowered with information and the truth can there be genuine democracy and ownership,” Honasan, Senate committee on public information and mass media chairman, was quoted as saying in a Business World report.
“The people must be reminded that it is they who own this country and its government. Thus, we present the People’s Ownership of Government Information Act, and we reclaim the future for our children,” he added.
According to GMA News Online, Honasan said that he “anticipates the smooth passage” of the consolidated FOI bill which was endorsed by 22 senators.
“A government of the people, by the people, and for the people is a government owned by the people. And only when the people are empowered with information and the truth can there be genuine democracy and ownership,” the senatorsaid.
Meanwhile, Senator Teofisto Guingona III vowed full support for the passage of the bill.
“If we want people to effectively participate in government, transparent and accessible information are vital,” Guingona was quoted as saying in a Philippine Star report.
“An FOI law is both a blessing and a challenge to good governance . If people have the right information, they must learn to use the same to contribute to nation-building,” he added.
“We commend the Senate Committee for keeping intact a progressive, pro-people FOI bill, even as it accommodates amendments proposed by Malacañang,” the group said.
Earlier, the coalition welcomed the Malacañang version of the bill even as they encouraged the Congress to “consider non-contentious refinements and improvements” on the proposed legislation.