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Consolidated FOI bill mostly Palace version

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Consolidated FOI bill mostly Palace version

/ 07:00 PM September 03, 2014

Rep. Jorge Almonte Facebook Photo

MANILA, Philippines—Most of the provisions in the consolidated Freedom of Information bill that the technical working group in the House of Representatives approved were lifted from the Malacañang version of the proposed measure that ensures transparency and accountability in the government.

In a statement sent by e-mail on Wednesday, public information committee chair Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge Almonte said most of the provisions in the Malacañang version can be found in the consolidated bill.

“Majority of the provisions of the administration version had been incorporated in the consolidated bill. However, there are slight modifications in the exceptions and a different penal provision in the latter version,” Almonte said.

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Among the provisions from the Malacañang version that found their way in the consolidated one are:

  • Secret information under an executive order pertaining to national security or defense foreign affairs
  • Records of minutes and advice and opinion during decision- and policy-making deemed by the President as privileged “by reason of the impairment of the Chief Executive’s deliberative process that would result from the disclosure thereof.” (Once decisions are made the information may be disclosed unless they were made in executive session)
  • Information about internal and external defense, law enforcement and border control, the disclosure of which would interfere with military or law enforcement operation, criminal activities suppression, and the effective implementation of immigration controls and border security; would deprive a person of a right to fair trial; would lead to disclosure of identity of confidential source; would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions; would endanger life of any individual Information from orders, resolutions, decisions, memoranda or audit reports by any executive, administrative, regulatory, constitutional, judicial or quasi-judicial body in the exercise of their adjudicatory and/or audit function
  • Information is obtained by a Congress committee in executive session
  • Information pertains to personal information of persons from public and private sector, disclosure of which would mean unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. (This may include signatures, addresses, telephone numbers, identification numbers, family members, race or ethnicity, religion, health, education, sexual orientation, and similar information, unless such information is specifically required by law to be entered into an official record and made available to the public)
  • Information on trade secrets and commercial or financial information, disclosure of which would prejudice interests of those in trade, industrial, financial and commercial competition
  • Information is privileged communication in legal proceedings by law or by Rules of Court
  • Information exempted by law or Constitution

The only exemption not in the Palace bill and in a new addition is on information on currencies, interest rates, securities, commodities, or financial institutions, disclosure of which would  lead to fraud, manipulation, or other unlawful acts or schemes.

The consolidated bill also lessened the penalty to a month and one day to six months imprisonment, from prison correccional in the administration version.

Almonte said the TWG deleted the provision for implementing rules and regulations “because the authors believe that the FOI manual is specific and sufficient guide for the faithful compliance and implementation of the bill.”

He also said some authors inserted Open Data provisions, which refer to the Open Data Philippines website, that seeks to enhance the public’s access to government information.

The bill also contained a matrix of requests, its status and the decisions on the request.

Almonte said the committee targets to approve the bill by the end of the year before it advances to the plenary for second reading.

The FOI bill, which ensures transparency and accountability in government transactions and data, continues to languish in the lower chamber even as the Senate has approved its version.

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The TWG was formed to consolidate the 24 versions of the bill.

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