Palace awaits Congress leadership change in push for FOI bill – exec
MANILA, Philippines – A Palace official on Wednesday said Malacañang would push for the passage of the long-awaited freedom of information (FOI) bill in the next Congress, one of the priority legislation of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“We’re setting our sights on the next Congress under a new leadership,” Communications Assistant Secretary and FOI executive director Kris Ablan said in a text message to INQUIRER.net.
“Yes we will be more active in July. With our learnings from 2 year implementation, we are revising the FOI bill. We also have found new FOI champions who would push for early passage in Congress,” Ablan added.
In July 23, 2016, Duterte issued Executive Order Executive Order No. 2, which laid down a policy of full public disclosure and transparency in public service to promote accountability, and set the guidelines for requesting and releasing information from offices under the executive branch.
The executive order (EO) does not cover the legislature, judiciary and even local government units (LGUs), though it encourages them to observe the order.
In his budget message to Congress in 2016, the President said, “It’s Congress’ turn to immediately pass the long overdue FOI law so that the people’s right to information will be honored across all branches and levels of the government.”
Halfway through his six-year term as President, Duterte has not seen Congress pass any FOI bill.
“What went wrong?”
Ablan said, “Congress was asking for presidential endorsement. Apparently, statement in 2016 Sona, EO 2, and creation of FOI PMO are not enough.”
Asked if the President would write to Congress to pass an FOI bill, he said there was no need for that.
“There’s no need. The ball is in Congress’ hands. The Executive has done all to move transparency forward. Nagdadahilan lang ang Congress,” he said.
House SALN restriction
On January 30, the House adopted on second reading House Resolution No. 2467, authored by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which would require majority consent to release lawmakers’ SALNs.
Asked about the House resolution restricting public access to the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of congressmen and employees of the chamber, Ablan, who oversees the FOI implementation in the executive branch said he shared the position of Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
In a statement, Panelo earlier said “such a procedure may be perceived as a transgression of Article XI of the Constitution, requiring any public official to submit a SALN.”
“Any stringent measure which burdens the people in obtaining public information may not be consistent with transparency and accountability of public officials,” he said. /cbb