Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Long Overdue


President Rodrigo Duterte signed the executive order (EO) implementing the freedom of information (FOI) by means of full public disclosure in the executive branch last July 23 in Davao City. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar announced this last July 24 in a press conference at Davao City.

In Article III (Bill of Rights) Section 7, the 1987 Constitution stated, “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”

Moreover, the directive requires full public disclosures to “all government offices under the executive branch including, but not limited to, the national government and all its offices, departments, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities including government-owned and -controlled corporations, state universities and colleges.”

However, with respect to the doctrine of separation of powers, this FOI directive will only be effective to the executive branch. The Congress and Judiciary are not covered in this directive. But, the congress can fully implement FOI in all branches by means of passing laws that requires all branches to adhere to transparency and accountability. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) are the oversight bodies for the FOI.

Information in the form of records, documents, papers, reports, letters, books, contracts, data, and electronic data, to name a few, can be made accessible to the public thru request and valid proof of identity. There will be a 15-day waiting period before confirmation. Officials are also required to publicly disclose their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. Andanar stressed that officials who fail to adhere to these requirements will face administrative cases.

By general ruling, exceptions to public disclosure “fall under any of the exceptions enshrined in the constitution’s existing law or jurisprudence.” The DOJ and OSG were required to produce a list of exceptions to be submitted to Pres. Duterte within 30 calendar days from the effective date. Andanar added that the kind of information which will not be released are those endangering national security.

the Weekly Sillimanian believes that the FOI should not be only limited to the executive branch. If Duterte wants a transparent government, he should ask his constituents in congress to push FOI in all three branches.

The freedom of information is a constitutionally-mandated right. The Filipinos have been “partially deprived” from this right. If they want change, it’s time to roll up the curtains and see what’s really happening in the government. After all, this has been long overdue.


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