Sen. Poe hopeful FOI bill would be passed by yearend

MANILA — Senator Grace Poe on Thursday expressed hope that the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill would be endorsed for plenary consideration and subsequent approval by December.

Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public information and mass media, made this remark after the final hearing on the transparency measure.

She said that because the Senate panel has already unanimously passed the FOI bill in the last Congress in record time, she was hopeful that the panel could soon release a committee report.

The panel is set to prepare a consolidated measure and consider various proposals from senators and what transpired in two public hearings.

The Senate approved on third and final reading its version of the FOI bill on March 10, 2014 during the 16th Congress, however the measure was stalled at the House of Representatives.

“This (version) is not far from the version already passed in the Senate. That’s why I am hopeful that this will be passed by yearend,” Poe said.

“I think that a lot of senators will agree to an FOI law at the soonest possible time,” she added.

President Rodrigo Duterte previously issued Executive Order (EO) No. 2 on the FOI measure which covers state agencies.

The FOI bill was listed as among the priority measures that the President wanted to be passed immediately.

Poe lauded the administration’s commitment to promote transparency and good governance, but pointed out that the measure still has certain limitations not to disclose sensitive information.

“Although the President’s EO is laudable, and we thank him for it, there is still an urgent need to pass a freedom of information law, so that the scope will not just be on the Executive but also on the other branches of government,” Poe said.

Poe explained that the Senate is not going to make a replica but rather improve the material so that the committee report in the chamber will be “a superior piece of legislation”.

She meanwhile said that the measure will assure an individual’s right to privacy since it is equally important as the right to information.

“There is a need to balance these two constitutionally protected rights, especially concerning online disclosure of sensitive information,” Poe said.

The lady senator meanwhile noted that the proposed FOI law could boost the administration’s anti-corruption policy. Azer Parrocha/