‘Problematic’ Info Bill Provision Pushed
MANILA, Philippines – One of the co-authors of the consolidated Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill cited the need yesterday to include the mandatory right to reply provision to ensure the protection of interests of all concerned stakeholders.
AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe pushed for the inclusion of the provision, branded as “problematic” by some principal authors of the bill and which was also thumbed down by journalists’ groups and media advocacy organizations.
“It should be there. It’s akin to self-defense,” he said in an interview with the Manila Bulletin.
The House Committee on Public Information, chaired by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone is set to vote on whether or not the provision would be included in the consolidated measure, which is scheduled to be approved at the panel level this month.
Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III earlier said the panel voting on May 14 seeks to put an end to the deadlock fired up by the troublesome provision.
Batocabe vowed to stick to his call amid the campaign that will be launched by his colleagues against the right to reply provision.
“I will maintain my position in Congress and other fora because we have to make a compromise otherwise the bill will be as good as dead,” he said.
He even explained that the approved version should promote and protect the interest of all concerned sectors.
“The key to passage of the FOI is the balancing of interests of all concerned including the protection of human rights to prevent undue harassment and oppression,” he said.
The Evardone panel was supposed to pass the bill last March 13, but due to insistence of Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo and Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino that their right to reply bills should be consolidated with other FOI bills, the measure’s approval was stalled.
Akbayan party-list Walden Bello, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño, and Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, chairman of the House Committee on National Cultural Communities, already rejected the provision.
During the March 13 committee hearing, Romualdo and Antonino insisted that their House Bills 117 and 4252, respectively should be included in the consolidated bill. At that time, the panel was ready to ap¬prove the FOI bill, which was moved by Baguilat.