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Freedom of information bill long overdue, senator says

Published Sept. 4, 2013, 6:19 p.m. PHT

Last updated Sept. 4, 2013, 11:51 p.m. PHT

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The Senate committee on public information and mass media headed by Senator Grace Poe started public hearings on the freedom of information (FOI) bills on Wednesday, September 4.

The proposed measure aims to provide a system for citizens to obtain information from the government on matters of public concern.

FOI sponsors Senators Sonny Angara, JV Ejercito and Chiz Escudero attended the session.

Representatives from the executive, the business sector, the academe, media organizations and civil society groups also appeared before the committee to give their opinion on the different FOI bills filed with the Senate.

Long overdue

“The Freedom of Information Bill is long overdue,” Poe said in her opening statement.

Poe added that the FOI bill almost became a law in the past. She said that the Senate approved the controversial measure during the previous Congress, but the House of Representatives failed to tackle it in plenary.

“With the support of majority of my fellow senators and a very strong public clamor, I am confident that the bill will be finally passed this 16th Congress,” Poe said in a statement posted on the Senate website.

Report out soon

Poe told reporters that her committee will hold another hearing on the bill.

She also expects the committee to come up with a report before the year’s end.

Almost the same

There are currently 8 FOI bills pending in the Senate. But Poe clarified that the different versions of the FOI are almost identical to each other.

She, however, pointed out that the Malacañang version of the bill has a provision barring the public from accessing certain information including records and documents that concern national security.

Safeguards

Poe clarified that the FOI bill has safeguards to avoid any abuse.

Malacañang support

While President Benigno Aquino III did not certify the proposed measure as urgent, Poe told reporters that the Malacañang has been cooperative in drafting the bill.