Palace: Restrictions in FOI order 'standard'

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 30 2016 06:31 PM

MANILA - Malacañang said Tuesday it will consider Senator Grace Poe's call to remove restrictive rules in the release of Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

READ: Grace Poe seeks review of 'restrictive rules' on SALNs

The government earlier released a draft list of about 166 exceptions on President Rodrigo Duterte's executive order on Freedom of Information (FOI) in the executive branch, one of which covers the release of copies of government officials' SALNs to the public.

Critics say the long list supposedly contradicts President Rodrigo Duterte's thrust for transparency in governance.

But presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the list of exceptions to the FOI executive order is still being reviewed.

"The senator's comment will be taken into account. Presently, the draft is still undergoing review at the Office of the Executive Secretary," Abella said.

Abella described the exceptions as "standard," saying "there are certain items there that cannot be revealed because of confidentiality."

He added that restrictions to the release of SALNs serve as "safeguard against the malicious use of the information."

Asked if provisions preventing the release of certain documents run in conflict with the transparency thrust of the Duterte administration, Abella said the details are still being worked out.

"It is a transparency measure. However, the details are still being worked out,'' he said.

The Palace, however, welcomed militant umbrella group Bayan's request for the Department of Transportation to release minutes of meetings between the Light Rail Transit Authority and the now-defunct Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to supposedly test Duterte's executive order on the FOI.

"This is not the first request made regarding access to public information. Mr. Greco Belgica made the request to DBM (Department of Budget and Management) regarding DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) and the documents were released so this move by Bayan is a welcome move," Abella said, referring to the controversial mechanism during the previous administration meant to speed-up public spending.