Latest Stories

Aquino fears FOI law would gag gov’t officials


President Benigno Aquino III. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Imagine a secretary suddenly stopping midway through his presentation in a Cabinet meeting because she or he felt that it was too sensitive for the public to know.

President Aquino raised this scenario before Inquirer editors and staff on Thursday night, saying that this was his main concern about the freedom of information (FOI) bill that would grant the public access to government records, including minutes of meetings.

The 15th Congress adjourned in June without approving the FOI bill, which was not certified as “urgent” by Mr. Aquino.

The President told the Inquirer editors he wanted to have “discussions wherein nobody is intimidated to say what they have to say.”

If the minutes of Cabinet meetings are to be made available to the public, Mr. Aquino said it may not be uncommon to hear one official telling another: ‘I’d like to say this, but this is being recorded.’”

The President, who spoke to the editors after addressing a gathering of coordinators of the Asia News Network (ANN) at the Inquirer office, said he was aware that in the proposed FOI measure, transcripts of Cabinet meetings would be available to the public, except those pertaining to national security and diplomacy.

“National security and diplomatic concerns you can exclude; others you can include,” he said.

But Malacañang apparently wants to fine-tune the bill some more.

Another proposal would exempt the minutes or records of advice given or of opinions expressed during government policy formulation—which are invoked by the President as part of “presidential communication privilege” or when the disclosure would ostensibly undermine the free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views by public officials.

In the FOI bill, an executive order must be issued specifying the reasonable period after which this information could be made accessible to the public.

The issue of executive communication privilege became controversial after it was invoked by then Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri to refuse to reveal his deliberations with then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on a bribe-tainted national broadband contract with China’s ZTE  telecommunications company.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Executive branch has submitted its own version of an FOI bill. The House of Representatives and Senate are expected to debate the proposals.

“Let them debate it because it’s a concern for all people,” he said.

But he added: “FOI proponents need to work on their constituency. A lot of us are for it but they need to work and convince the lawmakers that FOI is good for all of us,” Lacierda said.

On the other hand, proponents of the bill point out that the framers of the Constitution had decided that freedom of information was good for all Filipinos. They included it in a new Bill of Rights, and the public gave its nod when it approved the 1987 Constitution in a referendum.

Yet lawmakers over the past 25 years have failed to pass an implementing law that would make the constitutional right to information a reality.

Public outrage, fanned by news reports and state auditors’ reports of the large-scale misuse of the pork barrel, led to last Monday’s mammoth anticorruption rally at Rizal Park. Protesters called for the passage of the FOI bill to institutionalize transparency in the government as envisioned by the Constitution.

The measure seeks to criminalize acts such as falsely denying or concealing the existence of information for disclosure, and destroying information being requested under the FOI act.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: FOI law , President Aquino

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  2. Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  3. Palace prepared to charge its allies
  4. Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  5. Napoles turnaround alarms whistle-blowers
  6. What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  7. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  8. Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  9. HK apology: Why Estrada and not Aquino?
  10. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  3. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  4. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  8. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  9. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima


  • 4 Etihad passengers not yet located
  • DAR to complete installation of Luisita land reform beneficiaries in May
  • Ex-COA chief and co-accused in Arroyo plunder case nabbed
  • Kris Aquino’s ex- close in security named new Air Force chief
  • The ‘link diagram’ that killed ex-Bataan police officer
  • Sports

  • NLEX holds off Jumbo Plastic for a playoff berth
  • Pacquiao can dodge tax issues
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges
  • Big Chill freezes Cafe France to arrest skid
  • Pacquiao has to go through PBA Rookie draft
  • Lifestyle

  • Summer Mayhem: The ultimate beach experience
  • A haven for steak lovers
  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Tiff with HK over Luneta hostage fiasco finally over
  • DOLE sees more Filipinos hired by South Koreans
  • Filipinos second-shortest in Southeast Asia
  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Marketplace