By Cong B. Corrales

NOW that the House Committee of Public Information has filed its report on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to the Office of the Secretary General, the bill’s authors are urging the House leadership for “extraordinary will” to calendar it for sponsorship at the soonest time possible.

In a briefing, Wednesday, Public Infomation Chair Rep. Jorge T. Almonte told reporters that they formally submitted their report (Committee Report No. 746) alongside the substitute bill (House Bill 5801) last Monday, May 25. After this, he added, the bill will go to the Committee on Rules for calendaring in the plenary session.

The bill, Almonte said, consolidates 23 FOI bills filed in Congress which includes the version filed by the Right to Know, Right Now! (R2KRN) Coalition through Direct Initiative.

FOI authors collectively made an appeal, in the briefing, to House Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte Jr and Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II to include the bill in its “shortest list of priority bills.”

Earlier, R2KRN convenor Nepomuceno Malaluan expressed concern that the bill may again be passed over especially since the election year is drawing near.

This video short features excerpts of the House Committee on Public Information briefing on the Freedom of Information Bill.

In an interview after the briefing, Ifugao Rep. Teddy B. Baguilat Jr said he shares the concern of FOI advocates that there may not be enough time since the FOI bill is just one of 24 priority bills that will have to be considered before Congress adjourns.

“We are aware na pagdating na ng October, once people file their certificate of candidacies mas mahirap na humagilap ng kongresista sa plenary. Kung makipagsalaran ka doon, medyo nakakatakot nga,” Baguilat said.

“That’s why the need for an extraordinary will or decision ng House leadership na pabilisin yung proseso. We are not saying we will not follow the process. Kahit sponsorship lang before the sine die adjournment,” he added.

“I’m sure with the remaining months left in our terms there’s going to be a mad-scramble to have all of our pet bills approved.”

Meanwhile, Parañaque City Rep. Gus S. Tambunting appealed not only to the House leadership but also to his colleagues “across party lines” to support the committee report.

“This is a dream come true. Dalawang dekada na hong naghihintay ang taumbayan para po maaprubahan itong FOI bill,” Tambunting said.

For her part, Ang Nars Partylist Rep. Leah S. Paquiz hopes that her colleagues in the partylist system will vote for the approval of the FOI committee report in the plenary since the measure is all about “transparency.”

As for Almonte, he remains hopeful that the House leadership will pass the measure into law before the 16th Congress ends.

“I do believe in miracles but I know that it will not take a miracle to pass this law,” said Almonte.

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