Senate passes FOI Bill on 2nd reading

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 12 2012 05:20 PM | Updated as of Dec 13 2012 07:40 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate's version of the Freedom of Information Bill is now waiting approval on 3rd reading.

This is after the Senate plenary approved it on 2nd reading late Tuesday night.

Senate Bill 3208 is formally titled "An Act Fortifying the People's Right of Ownership over Information held by the People's Government" or the People's Ownership of Government Information Act of 2012.

It covers all branches of government  and any record, document, paper, report, letters, contract , minutes, transcripts and other similar data including video, pictures and electronic data.

It mandates that access to information be granted except:
- when it is authorized to be kept secret under an executive order and shall pertain to matters of national security or foreign relations;

- the information consists of records of minutes, records of advice given or records of opinions expressed during decision making or policy formation, invoked by the chief executive because of the sensitivity of the matter or by reason of impairment of executive privilege;

- it involved a legitimate military or law enforcement operation;

- it leads to the disclosure of the identity of a confidential source; 

- it endangers the life of an individual;

- information obtained by Congress in executive sessions;

- drafts of orders; 

- the personal information of a person tantamount to invasion of privacy; 

- trade secrets; 

- privilege communication protected by the rules of court; and, 

- information that may lead to speculations in currencies, financial institutions  and endanger the stability o the financial and commodities markets.
It also mandates the disclosure of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of the president, vice president, cabinet, members of congress, supreme court, constitutional commission and military officers with general or flag rank.
All agencies of government are mandated to post on their websites monthly the annual budget of government agencies, itemized monthly collections and disbursement, summary of income and expenditures, IRA utilization, procurement plan and list, items to bid, bid results on civil works and goods and services, abstract of bids as calculated, procurement contracts, construction or concession agreements, private sector participation contracts, public funding extended to private entity bilateral and multilateral agreements and treaties, licenses and permits, guarantees and loans.

The National Computer Center is mandated to monitor the compliance with the requirement to upload these information on the agency websites concerned.

It also prescribes protocols for requesting information, and requires that requests be favorably acted on within 15 working days from receipt.

If the request is to be denied, the bill also wants the notice of denial to be given within 15 days.

It also prescribes jail term of arresto mayor to any government official who denied access to information under the exemptions cited without factual basis.

Since the bill has not been certified as urgent by the President, it has to wait 3 days before it can be adopted on 3rd reading. Once adopted, it will wait for the version of the House of Representatives so the two can be reconciled under the bicameral conference committee.