FOI under Marcos admin? PIA vows efficient, inclusive access to info
MANILA, Philippines –Under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) made a promise to improve the accessibility of government data for all citizens.
House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro asked about the status of freedom of information (FOI) in the country at a House committee hearing on appropriations on the proposed 2023 budget of the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) on Friday.
But Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said that the OPS no longer handles FOI requests. Instead, the PIA, which is part of the Office of the President, does that now.
In response to Castro’s question, PIA Deputy Director General Karl Fajardo said that FOI services should get better because PIA has 16 regional offices and 78 provincial offices all over the archipelago.
He said that this would make it possible for their officers to handle more Freedom of Information Act (FOI) requests and lobby for FOI-related laws in front of local government units.
Castro then raised the need to hear the PIA’s commitment to honoring the FOI, citing previous struggles in gaining access to some government officials’ statements of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN).
To recall, an FOI executive order was issued in 2016 by former President Rodrigo Duterte – who was notably criticized for keeping his SALN undisclosed despite numerous requests from the media.
READ: Duterte’s FOI order leads to ‘unintended consequences’
Fajardo vowed that the FOI program under the PIA would operate more efficiently since they already have existing means of ensuring that the purpose of FOI requests is appropriately stated and evaluated.
“Dalawa po iyong purpose noon. To provide iyong accurate na request for information and at the same time, to make sure din po na magagamit sa intended purpose and lawful purpose iyong pag-request ng information,” he said.
(That has two purposes: To provide accurate information as requested; and to ensure that the intended and lawful purpose of the information is met.)
Asked about the PIA’s initiatives on making FOI requests more accessible for persons with disabilities (PWDs), Fajardo said they will coordinate with the National Council of Disability Affairs to create programs and policies that will give “preferential priority” for PWDs requesting information.
Castro also pressed on the need to have Filipino Sign Language interpreters handle FOI requests – a recommendation that Fajardo committed to including in the PIA’s plan of providing accessible information to PWDs.