After being approved in the Senate during the last Congress but failing to get the same approval at the House of Representatives, the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) bill was approved by a joint panel in the Senate on Wednesday after holding only two hearings.
The FOI bill seeks to institute transparency and accountability in government by ensuring reasonable access to public documents and information. While the bill, if enacted into law, would allow access to government records, it also contains some exemptions and safeguards on information concerning national security, bargaining position of the country in international transactions or when it would jeopardize criminal investigation, among others.
Senator Grace Poe, head of the Senate committee on public information and mass media said a committee report on the approved bill will now be routed to members of the committees for signature before it will be submitted for plenary debates. The senator added that they were determined to submit a committee report on the floor on September 24, sponsor it for plenary debates on September 25 and hopefully gets the approval of the chamber within the year.
The senator further said that the controversial “right of reply” provision was not included in the approved measure. The provision mandates media organizations to allow officials to respond to reports that were obtained through the FOI requests.