Duterte inks FOI executive order

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 24 2016 10:15 AM | Updated as of Jul 24 2016 01:47 PM

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order (EO) implementing the Freedom of Information (FOI), Malacañang announced Sunday.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte on Saturday approved the EO which provides for full disclosure of government records and transactions.

Under the order, Andanar said, "Every Filipino shall have access to information, official records, public records and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions as well as government research data used as basis for public development."

Andanar said the order will cover departments and line agencies under the executive branch, including government-owned and -controlled corporations and state universities.

"Local government units are encouraged to observe and be guided by this order," he added.

The EO, Andanar said, also reminds public officials to file and make available for scrutiny their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).

The order, however, denies access to information "which falls under any of the exceptions enshrined in the Constitution, existing law or jurisprudence."

"No request for information shall be denied unless it legally falls under any of the exceptions," he said.

Duterte has ordered the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General to submit an inventory of such exceptions to the Office of the President within 30 days, Andanar added.

He also said authorities must approve requests for information within 15 days, if there is no question on its legality.

Andanar said Duterte will leave it up to Congress to make a similar FOI measure.

(READ: Executive order on FOI)

Any person who requests access to information must submit a written request to the government office concerned, the EO states.

The request shall state the name and contact information of the requesting party, provide valid proof of his identification or authorization, reasonably describe the information requested, and even the reason for or purpose of the request for information.

The public official receiving the request must provide reasonable assistance, free of charge.

MEDIA BOYCOTT

Andanar also addressed observations that Duterte's imposition of the FOI is ironic given his continued refusal to give media interviews, which had served as traditional means for the President address public concerns.

"The President has over 30 Cabinet members, he has a working executive department and he has alter egos to answer questions the media has," he said.

Duterte has boycotted the media since early June after coming under fire for saying that corrupt journalists in the Philippines were killed.

The President blamed the controversy on the media for supposedly twisting his statements.

He has since coursed all official announcements through state-run media networks.

CORNERSTONE MOVE

Andanar also noted that legislators have been introducing an FOI bill in Congress for 28 years now, but Duterte signed an EO for the measure in his first 23 days in office.

The Senate passed its version of the FOI in the 14th, 15th and 16th Congress, but the measure was stalled at the House of Representatives.

Duterte's predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, raised the hopes of FOI advocates by promising in 2010 to support the legislation. The proposed law, however, was killed at the House of Representatives towards the end of Aquino's term.

Find out why the FOI is important in this video by Institute for Freedom of Information Philippines:

-- With a report from Willar Cheng, ABS-CBN News