Voting 10-3, House committee on Public Information on Monday approved the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, almost a year after a technical working group (TWG) began deliberating on the measure.

Despite the strong opposition of the Makabayan bloc, the panel approved the proposed measure.

Led by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, Makabayan bloc opposed the approval of what they called a “watered down” and “defanged” measure.

With this, the seven-member bloc withdrew their authorship of the measure following its approval by the panel.

Aside from Colmenares, those who voted against the FOI bill ACT-Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio and Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo.

The Senate already approved its FOI version on third and final reading last March and awaiting for its counterpart measure.

Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge Almonte, the panel chairman, said that he is confident that the consolidated FOI bill is both “progressive but well-balanced” after members of the TWG debated on it for nine meetings that lasted almost a year.

“The TWG devoted most time on the FOI bill deliberating on the provisions on exception. Members even went to the extent of discussing them line by line,” he recalled.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, one of the authors said members of the panel targets to pass the FOI bill at the committee level as soon as possible so debates on the plenary can start immediately.

“A lot of lawmakers have been telling us, how can we endorse the bill if it’s still in the committee level?” he told reporters after the hearing. “That’s why we resolved among ourselves to approve the bill already so it could be brought to the plenary.”

According to the lawmaker, the middle of 2015 is a viable period for the bill to be approved by the House on third and final reading since the House leadership has other priority measures to tackle like the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and the anti-political dynasty bill. (PNA)



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