Law needed despite FoI EO

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The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) pushed for a Freedom of Information (FoI) law despite Executive Order (EO) 2 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte that mandated transparency rules in the Executive branch.

PCOO Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan, FoI program director, said while waiting for the law, FoI Philippines, an office under the PCOO, will implement measures to assure government transparency.

“We remain hopeful that the FoI bill will be passed to further strengthen this administration’s effort in promoting transparency, accountability and citizen participation,” Ablan said.

Among such projects are the establishment of FoI Clearing Houses for “consistent disclosure practices,” regular consultations with FoI officers, enhancing the electronic FoI portal which includes an online appeals mechanism and collaboration among the Departments of Information and Communications Technology, of Budget and Management (DBM) and the National Archives of the Philippines for a government-wide digital records management.

Call backed

The PCOO also backed the call of a network of organizations and civil society leaders for the immediate passage of the FoI bill.

Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition (R2KRN) wanted the FoI legislation to be passed after it faced challenges in accessing government information on flagship programs, such as the Tax Reform and Inclusion Law and the “Build, Build, Build” program.

R2KRN has filed FoI requests from 20 agencies, including the DBM, Departments of Transportation, of Public Works and Highways and of Finance and from which it sought 141 documents. The agencies provided 17 documents while majority were still pending.

97% FoI compliant

PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar said agencies are already at a “97 percent compliance” with the FoI EO while a number of local government agencies have volunteered to also take part in the initiative.

“This strengthens the people’s right to be informed as stipulated in the Constitution. It makes the government really transparent and easier for corruption watchdogs to really see if government is doing its job properly,” Andanar stated in a radio interview.

The Communications chief added the long-awaited passage of the FoI bill will pave the way for a more transparent and progressive Philippines.

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