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Lawmaker hopes approval of FOI bill soon

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Passing the Freedom of Information bill might just be one of congressmen’s resolutions for the Year of the Wooden Horse,  Ifugao rep. Teodoro Baguilar Jr. hopes.

Baguilat said that a new year means new beginnings and what better way to start the year than the passage of the FOI bill, which has been languishing in Congress, particularly the House of Representatives for much too long.

“Early passage of FOI bill is desired,” said Baguilat, one of the co-authors of the measure.

“Having such a bill would have helped to prevent scams,” he said. “It would have also helped in the ongoing inquiry on the alleged collusion between the Energy Regulatory Commission and the Manila Electric Co. as consumers could demand information on the process of consultation and the full set of guidelines and processes of ERC.”

Baguilat said the Committee on Public Information of the House of Representatives has yet  to set a meeting for the technical working group on consolidation, but he hopes that a meeting would be called soon so that the self-imposed deadline of February to pass a consolidated bill would be met.

But with Congress’ sessions set to resume by the third week of January, FOI advocates will have no more time to conduct hearings.

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Despite these early snags this 2014,  the Ifugao lawmaker is still optimistic 2014 would be the year that the FOI bill would finally be passed.   For one thing, the authors of the various FOI bills in the House of Representatives have agreed to consolidate their proposals into one bill to expedite approval in the 16th Congress.

Among the authors who have agreed to have a common FOI bill are Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Akbayan Represetnatives Barry Gutierrez and Walden Bello, Winston Castelo, and Nars partylist Leah Paquiz. Advocates Roman Romulo and Em Aglipay also support the move to consolidate the bills into just one.

The FOI bill was passed by the Senate in the last Congress and current Senate Committee on Information Committee chair Grace Poe has signified her commitment to pass an FOI bill under her watch.

The FOI bill seeks to make it easier for the public to access public documents, especially those related to bidding of government projects as well as the allocation of government spending. With it,  greater transparency in government affairs and the way that taxpayers’ money is being spent are seen. - Artemio A. Dumlao

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