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Senate approval of FOI bill eyed in March

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate will resume next week the plenary debates for the controversial Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which is seen to be passed by the upper chamber in March this year.

"We will resume plenary debates on January 27, confident that by the end of March or the first quarter of this year, we will be able to pass this measure at the Senate," said Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares, the bill's sponsor and chair of the committee on public information and mass media.

Poe said the FOI bill will not only deter graft and corruption but will also empower citizens to actively participate in governance.

"It is not simply about passing this measure but guaranteeing a truly reliable and meaningful FOI law," she said.

The measure, which passed the Senate committee level in September 2013, seeks to allow every Filipino citizen to request and be granted access to any government record or information, except those on matters that will affect national security, diplomatic relations and law enforcement operations.

The FOI is among the anti-corruption measures that is expected to be tackled by the Senate, which will resume its session today following a month-long break.

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Senate President Franklin Drilon claimed that senators "are deeply committed to intensify the campaign against corrupt practices" and will prioritize measures like the FOI bill "which would enable significant steps in curbing corruption in Philippine bureaucracy."

"We will continue the intensive discussions we had before we went on a break with the FOI bill, which is now in advanced stages of legislation," Drilon said.

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