Some gov't agencies still 'reluctant' to grant public access to information: Palace official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 30 2017 05:10 PM

MANILA - Several state-run institutions are still "reluctant" to disclose information to the public despite a year-old freedom of information (FOI) executive order in place, a Palace official said Friday.

"There are some agencies that feel that the information they disclose have some kind of intellectual property ownership," Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan, Malacañang's Freedom of Information program director, said in an interview on ANC's Early Edition.

"Department of Science and Technology researchers, teachers from state universities are concerned that their academic work might be used by private individuals for commercial gain so they are reluctant to disclose such information," Ablan added.

In July 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order mandating all departments and line agencies under the executive branch, including government-owned and -controlled corporations and state universities, to disclose data and information upon request.

While certain agencies are reluctant to heed the order, all 22 executive departments, including the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President, have produced FOI manuals, Ablan said.

But the communications official said the FOI compliance rates tend to dwindle down the bureaucracy.

There is a 70 percent compliance rate among national government agencies, but only one-fourth of government owned and controlled corporations and only 4 percent of state universities and colleges have complied with the president's full disclosure order, Ablan said.

CULTURE CHANGE

The FOI program director said compliance figures are expected to improve in the near future.

Research on the implementation of freedom of information policies in other countries show that it would take about two years before government workers can fully adapt to the "culture of transparency," he said.

"Like any kind of cultural change, it takes time... It will take time for them to realize that it's taxpayer's money," he said.

'CRAZY' REQUESTS

Ablan said not all requests for information were thumbed down due to the reluctance of some institutions.

"The most common reason for denying requests is it was submitted to the wrong agency. The office does not have the information the person is asking," Ablan said.

"Crazy requests" would always be denied, Ablan said.

"The ones tasked to implement FOI in UP are asking us for advice [on] how to deal with requests such as, "How many blades of grass are in UP sunken garden?" he said.