PCIJ: Four more lawmakers present at Freedom of Information session; quorum was reached

Four more House representatives claimed they were wrongly marked absent during the June 4 session when the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill failed to be ratified due to the lack of a quorum, reports the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). The four bring to eight the physically present representatives named absent, thus bringing the count to 136one more than the required 135 for a quorum.

PCIJ cited media reports quoting the first four congressmen who said they were actually present: Senior Deputy Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Rizal Rep. Michael John "Jack" Duavit, AMIN Party-List Rep. Mujiv Hataman, and South Cotabato Rep. Arthur Pingoy.

The four additional congressmen are Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo, Bantay Party-List Rep. Jovito Palparan, Cebu Rep. Pablo P. Garcia, and Caloocan City Rep. Oscar Malapitan.

Gunigundo and Gonzales in a video that PCIJ took during the FOI session on June 4.

Palparan was also allegedly caught on camera. "S'yempre, hindi magsisinungaling ang video... Nagtaas pa nga ako ng kamay, but I moved three seats away from my assigned seat."

Malapitan admitted he was "a little bit late." He said, "Pero pag ma-late ka, present ka pa rin, there's no such thing as late."

Garcia told PCIJ, "I was present during the roll call. But I did not need to raise my hand because the House secretariat was in an elevated position and I think they saw me. I was behind the lectern. It was my son, Pablo John, who was absent, not I."

Pingoy did not raise his hand as well since it wasn't the practice, he said. "Nag-clarify na nga ako sa Secretariat. I even wrote a letter to Speaker Nograles and the House secretary general last Monday." Pingoy claimed two colleagues from Lakas-Kampi-CMD told him, "Kung puwede mawala ka sa floor (during the roll call)."

FOI bill co-author Hataman, who was also marked absent, said he is considering "legal action" on the "misreported" list. "Ang sabi ko sa [House secretariat] open n'yo ang CCTV para makita ang ebidensya… I was even raising my hand during the roll call. Magkatabi pa kami ni [Rep. Joel Villanueva]."

As of June 8, House Secretary General Atty. Marilyn Barua-Yap has not responded to PCIJ's inquiries about the official roll call record. The House's Journal Service Director Ma. Queenette DL. Masangcay wrote Quezon Rep. Erin Tanada:

"In view of several complaints relative to the attendance of the members during the roll call on that day, the Secretariat is reviewing all available records regarding the matter. To date, two members were identified as having been present but were inadvertently marked as absent during that day. As such, we are not yet in a position to officially release the names of the members present during the roll call on that day."

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PCIJ's Malou Mangahas on the Freedom of Information Bill

The FOI Bill sought to require government agencies to make "all information pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions" available to all interested individuals or groups, with some constitutional exemptions including documents that might endanger national security.

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