By Cielito M. Reganit
MANILA, Feb. 4 (PNA) — Two lawmakers who have filed their respective versions of a Freedom of Information (FOI) bill at the House of Representatives on Tuesday expressed optimism that a reconciled version of the controversial proposed law would be presented at the Committee on Public Information by next week.
Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao and Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting said that a technical working group (TWG) is set to meet on Thursday (Feb. 6) to discuss the consolidation of some 20 different versions of the Freedom of Information bill.
According to Bag-ao, the authors have taken active roles in an effort to meet a self-imposed Feb. 13 deadline for the TWG to come up with a consolidated version of the bill that can be voted on by the committee members.
“We have initiated informal discussions among the authors as early as December last year, and hopefully, these parallel actions would help significantly in reconciling the differing proposals by next week,” she said.
Bag-ao stressed that coming out with a reconciled version this early would be crucial for the FOI bill to be passed in the 16th Congress and enacted into law before the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III expires.
She noted that past FOI bills failed because they were acted upon only when it was already too late.
During the 15th Congress, the FOI bill passed the bicameral committee but was not ratified by the House of Representatives on the last session day.
The FOI fared worst during the 15th Congress as it did not even reach plenary discussions.
“It was because committee hearings on the FOI bill commenced only during the 3rd regular session. Paano ka pa bibili pag napagsarhan ka na ng tindahan?” Bag-ao said.
The lawmaker added that having a reconciled version of the proposed transparency law this early would give them enough time to rally for presidential support.
“For it to be enacted, we have to come out with a consolidated bill, present it to President Aquino and ask for his support,” Bag-ao said.
For his part, Tambunting said that presenting it to the President would give the Palace time to study it and propose acceptable amendments.
Noting that a Malacañang-proposed FOI had been submitted before, he said that presenting a consolidated proposal this early would allow them to discuss and debate all issues thoroughly in the 2nd and 3rd regular sessions. (PNA)