FOI bill in limbo as House hearings deferred anew
The Freedom of Information (FOI) bill continues to hang in the balance at the House of Representatives after the chairperson of the panel deliberating on the measure failed to make good on his promise to hold a hearing next week.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairperson of the House committee on public information, said the panel’s hearing next Tuesday will no longer push through because it coincided with lower chamber’s crucial vote on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.
“Gusto ng coalition leaders na mag-focus sa RH. Tinanong ko sila and sinabi nila na mag-focus na lang sa RH. Siguro, they want to take this one battle at a time,” Evardone said in a phone interview with GMA News Online.
The lawmaker earlier vowed to hold a hearing on the FOI bill on Aug. 7 –the same day the House leadership set the vote on whether or not to continue plenary debates on the RH bill.
The FOI bill, which seeks to lift the shroud of secrecy over government transactions and data, has been pending before House committee on public information since February last year.
It’s never too late
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada, principal author of the FOI bill at the House, said it is never too late for Evardone to call for a hearing with panel members.
“Puwede naman kung magpapadala siya sa members ng committee ng notice, but so far, wala pa siyang notice,” Tañada said in a separate phone interview.
Evardone however said that he could not call a hearing even if he wanted to. “I am just a foot soldier. Kung ano ang sabihin ng amo ko, yun ang gagawin ko,” he said.
The House committee chairperson was noncommittal as to when he plans to schedule the next hearing on the FOI bill. “I will have to ask for guidance from coalition members on this. Hindi naman kasi puwedeng nakabinbin lang sa committee ko ito.”
In an earlier press briefing, Evardone said the FOI bill has “very limited” chances of being passed, since the lower chamber will be busy deliberating on the proposed 2013 budget in the next two months. — VS, GMA News