Youth to legislators: “Your actions speak louder than your lack of words”; Right of Reply in FOI will turn it into a ‘zombie bill’

The youth will be watching their Representatives in tomorrow’s House Committee on Public Information hearing on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill.

“Our vigilance goes far beyond social media. We will definitely be present in the committee hearing to see if legislators will represent the interests of the citizens or if they will only carry their own,” said Chris Alquizalas, convenor of the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI), a network of 57 youth and student organizations pushing for the passage of the said measure.

On the day before the hearing, FYI members continued its ‘Bantay Batasan para sa FOI’ and called the offices of the committee members to determine if they will be present in the meeting the next day. “Based on what we found out, there will be enough members present to constitute a quorum. They won’t be able to use a lack of such as an excuse tomorrow,” said Carlo Brolagda, Chairperson of the UP Diliman CSSP Student Council.

Alquizalas added that “what the FYI is watching out for are the legislators who will delay the proceedings by raising repetitive points and questions, just like what happened in the previous meeting.”

In the November 13 hearing, Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino continued to manifest and inquire about the non-inclusion of his Right of Reply provision in the consolidated FOI Bill. Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, chair of the Technical Working Group (TWG), answered that such a controversial provision should be resolved by the mother committee, which failed to call for hearings due the “inaction of its Chairman, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone,” according to the FYI.

“They may not declare that they are anti-FOI, but their actions speak louder than their lack of words. It doesn’t take a genius to see that during the previous hearing, they were trying to use up the time with continuous badgering so that they can adjourn once the plenary goes into session,” said Alquizalas, a political science student.

One of the major concerns of the FYI is the proposal to include a Right of Reply provision in the FOI Bill. According to Brolagda, also a political science student, “There’s no room for the Right of Reply in the FOI. Aside from it being an anti-press freedom provision, two subjects are not allowed to be within one legislative measure.”

“We must remain watchful and critical. FOI is already in near-death after the previous committee hearing. Now, their trying to distort and turn it into a zombie bill by attempting to add the Right of Reply,” ended Brolagda.

via FOI Youth Initiative (FYI)