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Lower House fails to pass freedom of information bill

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The Philippine Lower House did not pass the Freedom of Information bill in its last session on 4 June 2010 due to a lack of quorum.

This brings the efforts to have a law that will allow Filipino citizens access to all public documents back to square one, when the 15th Congress comes into session.

The House of Representatives' Secretariat declared that there were only 128 congressmen present, seven short of the required 135 legislators.

With this, House Speaker Prospero Nograles banged the gavel to announce the adjournment of Congress's last session, even as supporters of the bill inside the hall expressed surprise and protest.

Earlier, Nograles opened the session at 3:30 pm. When House majority floor leader Arthur Defensor announced that the Freedom of Information bill was slated for ratification that day, Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo rose and declared his objection, saying that there was a "lack of discussion" on the House version of the FOI bill. He also said that there was no quorum.

Nograles suspended the session. When it resumed, he asked for a roll call which showed that there were only 128 congressmen present.

Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, one of the principal co-authors of the bill, said the quorum was not an issue as the House had passed and ratified numerous bills in the past even without a quorum.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJP) denounced the non-passage of the bill which had been pending at the Lower House since 2009.

"We now challenge the new President to make good on the campaign promises of good governance and make this bill or an even better measure a priority of the 15th Congress," the NUJP said.

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