“This is a gesture we are sure not only media but everybody who believes transparency and accountability indispensable to good governance and democracy highly appreciates.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Journalists and legislators welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the executive order (EO) on Freedom of Information.
The five-page EO states that the Executive Branch recognizes the urgent need to operationalize Constitutional provisions on the State’s policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest, and on the right of the people to information on matters of public concern.
The EO directs all government offices under the executive branch to prepare, within 120 calendar days, their own People’s FOI Manual. The manual shall include provisions on the procedure for filing and processing the request for information; the process for the disposition of requests; the schedule of applicable fees, among others.
Section 4 of the EO states that access to information shall be denied when the information falls under any of the exceptions enshrined in the Constitution, existing law or jurisprudence.
President Rodrigo Duterte directs the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General to prepare an inventory of such exceptions within 30 calendar days.
Dabet Panelo, secretary general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), said, “This is a gesture we are sure not only media but everybody who believes transparency and accountability indispensable to good governance and democracy highly appreciates.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate commended the EO’s clear recognition of every Filipino’s right to ‘have access to information, official records, etc.’ and the ‘legal presumption to have access’ to information.
Tool against corruption
Youth groups said the EO on FOI is a “tool against corruption.”
Kabataan Partlylist said that with the new EO, the people can now:
– Request for financial statements, correspondence, contracts, and any and all papers and documents that can potentially expose overpricing and nefarious activities in the Executive Branch.
– Compel public officials to release relevant information on the performance output of agencies.
– Request for copies of public policy research that can empower people to tap into government’s vast resources for education and critical stances on extant policies.
College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) national deputy secretary general Jose Mari Callueng said students could use the EO to open the books of state universities and colleges, to monitor the collection of tuition and other school fees as well other sources of income. He said findings could be used to stop the collection of unjust and exorbitant fees.?
The groups reiterated the need for an FOI law to cover all branches of government.
Zarate called on the House leadership to fast track the passage of House Bill 334 or the Genuine FOI Bill. Zarate filed the bill last June 30.
Zarate said “there should be no repeat to a watered-down and diluted FOI version that the disgraced Aquino administration pushed in the previous Congress but, fortunately enough, failed to pass into law.”
The NUJP further called on the Duterte administration to end media killings and to solve past murders, bring the perpetrators to justice and put an end to the culture of impunity and to do away with all laws that suppress free expression such as the criminal libel law.