The Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed to advance the resumption of its session to 24 May 2010, Monday, instead of its original schedule of 31 May.
When the House of Representatives convenes on this day, we, representatives of over 100 organizations and coalitions comprising public-interest groups, environmental protection advocates, independent media groups, print and broadcast journalists, farmers organizations and support groups, women’s organizations, private and public sector labor unions, migrant workers, businessmen, academic institutions, and student and youth organizations, call on Speaker Prospero Nograles and all members of the House of Representatives to perform two historically significant acts in the country’s public life. First, ratify the bicameral conference committee report on the Freedom of Information Act, and second, proceed to adopt the resolution to hold a joint session for the presidential and vice presidential canvass of votes.
The first act will fulfill the long overdue constitutional duty of Congress to provide the law that will secure for the nation the full functioning of our constitutional right to information, and the duty of the state to implement a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.
After the long and arduous legislative process, from the first reading, committee hearings, approval on second and third readings in each chamber, and the reconciliation of the House and Senate version by a bicameral conference committee, the ratification will be the final step needed before the act can be transmitted to President Arroyo for her signature.
There is no reason why the ratification cannot be done on May 24. The Rules of the House of Representatives in fact call for it. Rule X, Section 61 states: “(T)he consideration of conference committee reports shall always be in order, except when the Journal is being read, while the roll is being called, or the House is dividing on any question.”
The reason for the highly privileged status of a bicameral conference committee report is simple: it settles the differences of the two chambers and perfects legislation as far as Congress can. A Bicameral Conference Committee Report, in gist, is the legislative business at its nearest completion. It is entitled to priority over other businesses of Congress in an earlier stage. This becomes even more compelling as the Senate has already done its part by ratifying the conference report before session adjourned last February.
Not only do the Constitutional duty and the House Rules require immediate ratification on May 24, it is also a moral commitment of the leadership and members of the House of Representatives. The passage of the bill is in the legislative agenda of Speaker Nograles. The bill passed by the House on third reading as early as May 2008 bears the authorship of no less than 181 members. Also, the bicameral conference committee report was unanimously approved and signed by all eight members of the House contingent. (See below list of bill authors and members of the House panel in the bicameral conference committee.)
The consideration of the conference report on the FOI bill for ratification will by no means hold up or delay the other agenda of canvassing. If Speaker Nograles allows it, it will not take five minutes to put and second the motion to ratify, and for the voting to proceed. The adoption of the resolution to hold a joint session for the presidential and vice presidential canvass of votes can then immediately follow.
The two measures are in fact inextricably linked. The canvass of votes for the President and the Vice President is the first election in years whose results enjoy wide acceptance. What should not be missed is that contributing substantially to the perception that the 2010 elections succeeded in overcoming the trademark features of previous elections is the relatively free flow of information to the media and consequently to the public.
By ratifying the FOI Act and promptly transmitting it to the Office of the President, and by presiding, jointly with the Senate, in an orderly and transparent canvass of votes, the House of Representatives will have given the Filipino people the gift of a credible transition of leadership, and the empowering right of access to information. This will provide a strong foundation for the political, social and economic renewal of the country.
In sum, there is no impediment to ratifying the FOI Act on May 24. We leave behind the events in the House of Representatives in the final days of session last February. We look to the leadership of Speaker Nograles, the champions of FOI and all members of the House of Representatives, to pull through for the Filipino people, and leave a legacy that will benefit our generation, and the generations to come.
Right to know. Right now!
Authors of House Bill 3732
HB 3732 has a total of 181 members of the House of Representatives listed as authors. These are Representatives ANGARA, DEL MAR, VILLANUEVA, CRUZ-GONZALES, ABAYA, TALIÑO-MENDOZA, TAÑADA, DE GUZMAN, GONZALES (A.), OCAMPO, CASIÑO, PABLO, HONTIVEROS-BARAQUEL, COQUILLA, FUA, TEODORO, CHATTO, MAZA, BELTRAN, ILAGAN, ABANTE, CODILLA, DAZA, ALCALA, BIAZON, UMALI (A.), CUA (J.), UY (R.A.), DEL ROSARIO, PINGOY, LAGMAN, OLAÑO, CAJAYON, JOSON, SOON-RUIZ, GARAY, SANDOVAL, MANDANAS, HATAMAN, ABLAN, AGBAYANI, AGGABAO, AGYAO, ALFELOR, ALMARIO, ALVAREZ (A.), AMATONG, ANGPING, APOSTOL, AQUINO, ARAGO, ARENAS, ARNAIZ, ARROYO (D.), ARROYO (I.), ASILO, BAGATSING, BALINDONG, BARZAGA, BINAY, BIRON, BONDOC, BONOAN-DAVID, BRIONES, BULUT, CABILAO, CAGAS, CASTELO DAZA, CASTRO, CAYETANO, CELESTE, CERILLES, CHIPECO, CHONG, CLARETE, CLIMACO, COSCOLLUELA, CRISOLOGO, CUA (G.), CUENCO, DATUMANONG, DEFENSOR (A.), DEFENSOR (M.), DIAZ, DILANGALEN, DIMAPORO, DOMOGAN, DUAVIT, DUMARPA, DURANO, DY, ENVERGA, ESCUDERO, ESTRELLA (C.), FABIAN, FERNANDEZ, FERRER, FUENTEBELLA, GARCIA (A.), GARCIA (P.), GARCIA (V.), GARIN, GATCHALIAN, GATLABAYAN, GO, GOLEZ, GONZALES (N.), GONZALEZ, GULLAS, GUNIGUNDO, HOFER, JAAFAR, JALA, JAVIER, JIKIRI, KHO, LACSON, LAGDAMEO, LAPUS, LIM, LOPEZ, MADRONA, MAGSAYSAY, MAMBA, MANGUDADATU, MARAÑON, MARCOS, MATUGAS, MERCADO, MITRA, NAVA, NICOLAS, NOEL, NOGRALES, ONG, ORTEGA, PADILLA, PANCHO, PANCRUDO, PICHAY, PIÑOL, PLAZA, PRIETO-TEODORO, PUNO, RAMIRO, REMULLA, REYES (V.), ROBES, RODRIGUEZ, RODRIGUEZ-ZALDARRIAGA, ROMAN, ROMARATE, ROMUALDEZ, ROMULO, SALVACION, SANTIAGO (J.), SANTIAGO (N.), SILVERIO, SINGSON (E.), SINGSON (R.), SUAREZ, SUSANO, SY-LIMKAICHONG, TEVES, TIENG, TUPAS, UNGAB, UY (E.), UY (R.S.), VARGAS, VELARDE, VILLAFUERTE, VILLAROSA, VINZONS-CHATO, VIOLAGO, YAP, YU, ZAMORA (M.), ZAMORA (R.), ZIALCITA and ZUBIRI.
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