MANILA - Lawmakers lauded President Rodrigo Duterte's signing of an executive order on the Freedom of Information (FOI).
Senator Grace Poe, who is one of the legislators pushing for the FOI bill, called Duterte's executive order a milestone for the executive branch.
"Well, let me say in the first place that we thank the President for starting this at least in the Executive branch. This is already indeed a milestone. There are a lot of things that we need to continue with regard to the Freedom of Information in other branches of government but we await with much anticipation that full implementation in the Executive branch," Poe told ANC Sunday.
Poe, however, added that there are still a lot to consider, including the declarations of exceptions which are cited in the constitution, one of which, is the right to privacy.
"First they need to say what the exceptions are and number two, they need to be clear what the penalties are for government officials who will fail to comply with this Executive Order. Because if it's just a slap on their wrist or it's just a minor penalty then there's no motivation to actually comply with the law," she also said.
Poe said the government's next steps should be to determine the penalties for officials who fail to comply with the EO, adding this is helpful in fighting corruption in the government.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who is also one of the principal supporters of the FOI bill, said the signing of the EO serves as a "political masterstroke" for the Duterte administration.
He said that with the signing of the EO, the administration hopes that the clamor for the FOI law will be diminished.
Trillanes added it is a good step towards transparency, as they continue to push for the FOI law in both houses of Congress.
Meanwhile, Senator Ralph Recto, in a statement, said the EO should cut red tape in public offices.
"There's one important benchmark by which this FOI order should be measured, on how fast government permits can be secured."
"Clear, concise, cheaper way of getting government documents like passports and licenses," Recto added.
Recto also said it is not enough that the public is allowed access to public documents as "it is also important that documents are written in a language they can easily understand."
Senator Francis Pangilinan, likewise, lauded Duterte for signing the "landmark" EO on FOI.
"Pinupuri natin si Pangulong Duterte sa kanyang pagtaguyod ng karapatan sa impormasyon sa pamamagitan ng Executive Order na ito. Unang hakbang ito para sa isang mas transparent na pamumuno," Pangilinan said in a statement.
He added that despite the EO, lawmakers should still push for a FOI law.
"Pero hindi pa tapos ang ating trabaho. Ang ehekutibo lamang ang sakop ng Executive Order. Kailangan pa natin ng batas sa Freedom of Information na sakop ang lahat ng antas ng burukrasya," Pangilinan said.
Former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares expressed optimism tha FOI will be passed into law in the 17th Congress.
Now that the EO on FOI has been signed by the President, Colmenares said the only battle it will encounter is the over broad exceptions that might be used to defang the bill.
He also warned legislators to ensure that the intent and spirit of true FOI will be followed.