RH, FOI bills excluded from Congress 'urgent' list
MANILA, Philippines – Both the Reproductive Health bill and the Freedom of Information bill have been left out of the 23 additional measures to be prioritized by the House of Representatives when it opens its second regular session next week.
Opposition of the Catholic Church hierarchy have stalled the passage of the RH bill, which is being debated in plenary.
The FOI, which will give access to ordinary citizens to government contracts, among others, has yet to hurdle the committee level.
Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tanada III, the deputy speaker, said Malacanang wants to include a provision in the bill that would not give out information when it could jeopardize national security.
“But we want them to define what national security is because it could be a catch-all phrase,” Tanada, who is part of the committee finalizing the bill’s version.
Tanada, however, said he remains optimistic President Benigno Aquino III will see through the importance of the bill in making true his commitment for transparency.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the additional 23 measures cover the areas of good governance, agriculture, human rights, cultural communities, land administration and ecology, education and antiterror policies.
“We will hit the ground prepared when Congress opens its 2nd regular session following the President’s State of the Nation Address on July 25,” he said.
According to him, the additional list of proposed measures are apart from the original 23 measures identified by Malacanang during the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) and the 84 bills earlier named by the House leadership.
Of the 23 LEDAC measures, four bills and one joint resolution were already signed into law by the President. Of the 84 original House priorities, 15 have been approved on third reading and are now awaiting Senate action.
The additional priorities include: 1) Terrorist Financing Suppression Act of 2010; 2) Amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; 3) Reorganizing the Philippine Statistical System; 4) Strengthening the Animal Industry and Veterinary Quarantine Services; 5) Providing for the Modernization of PAGASA; 6) Providing for a Maritime Code of the Philippines; 7) Eliminating Gender Bias on Adultery and Concubinage Act; 8) Amending RA 7877, “Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995; 9) Women’s Higher Education Act; 10) Providing for a Nationwide Scholarship Program for Indigenous Peoples; 11) Expanding the coverage of the Science and Technology Scholarship Program; 12) Extending the life of the Land Bank of the Philippines; 13) Land Management Bureau Survey of Cadastral Lots in the entire Country; 14) Providing for the delineation of the specific Forest limits of the Public Domain; 15) Banning Asbestos and Asbestos-containing products; 16) Establishing Number Portability for Mobile Telephone Service; 17) Regulating the placement of billboards; 18) Telecommunications Accessibility Act; 19) Anti-Prostitution Act 2011; 20) Prohibiting the use of the words “Muslim” and “Christian” in Mass Media; 21) Debts-for-MDGs Swap; 22) Creating a Center for Studies on Indigenous Cultural Communities; and 23) Filipino Volunteerism in National-Building Act.
From the original LEDAC list, the following, among others, have been approved by the committees to which they were referred to: 1) Establishing the Archipelagic Sea Lanes, prescribing rights of foreign ships; 2) Providing a definite targeting strategy in identifying the poor (amend RA 7875)/Provide mandatory Heathcare Coverage; 3) Amending the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act; 4) Whistle Blowers Protection Act; and 5) National Land Use and Management Act of the Philippines.
The creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the measure instituting a Land Administration Reform Act are both pending with the Committee on Appropriations for comments on their respective funding provisions.