Close  

FOI exceptions down to ‘not more than 10’

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 04:46 AM October 12, 2016
FOI BILL PASSAGE Activists push for the passage of the freedom of information bill in the House of Representatives. —INQUIRER PHOTO

FOI BILL PASSAGE Activists push for the passage of the freedom of information bill in the House of Representatives.
—INQUIRER PHOTO

The good news is that the official rollout of the freedom of information (FOI) program of the executive branch will start on Nov. 25.

The bad news is that there are exceptions although these will be reduced from 166 to “not more than 10.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Assistant Secretary Christian Ablan of the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) on Tuesday said exceptions covered in the FOI manual to be rolled out in November would be limited to 10 “digestible exceptions.”

“We are merely following the example of other countries,” Ablan said at a hearing
of the public information
committee of the House of Representatives.

FEATURED STORIES

He noted similar policies in the United States and Australia that each identified only nine exceptions to the body of information that may be made accessible to the public.

Security, trade secrets

Some of these exemptions covered national security, law enforcement, trade secrets and finance documents, legal and professional privileges, and interagency memorandums, Ablan told the committee chaired by ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio.

“Of course, some exceptions may be broad,” applying to many of the earlier recommendations by government agencies whose opinions were sought on which information to withhold the public, he added.

In July, President Duterte signed an executive order mandating full public disclosure of information in all offices under the executive branch, except those falling under any of the exceptions enshrined in the Constitution, existing law, or jurisprudence.

A month later, a draft FOI manual issued by the PCO identified 166 exceptions recommended by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General, including national security and law enforcement matters, personal information, trade secrets and bank records.

Final list

Ablan said the final list of 10 or so FOI exceptions would be released by the Office of the Executive Secretary by the end of this week or next week.

The official rollout of the FOI program shall start on Nov. 25, though government agencies already capable of processing FOI requests may do so before then.

ADVERTISEMENT

At the House, lawmakers have filed 30 bills for an enabling law on FOI after several failed attempts in past Congresses.

On Tuesday, Tinio’s committee created a technical working group to harmonize and consolidate all 30 proposed measures on FOI.

Right to info, privacy

It also heard feedback from national agencies on the viability of an FOI law, including from the newly created National Privacy Commission, whose commissioner Raymond Liboro raised concerns about
a possible conflict between right to information and privacy rights.

“Government is the biggest repository and collector of private information, and citizens have both the right to information and the right to privacy. It is our duty to protect both rights,” Liboro said.

Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta said he understood the “overeagerness” to pass the FOI bill, considering the public clamor for it.

Protect dignity

But he warned that the constitutional provision protecting the people’s right to information might clash with another more vital constitutional provision protecting “human dignity.”

In allowing certain information to be revealed to the public, “people’s dignities and reputation” may be smashed, he said.

Most of the lawmakers at the committee hearing, however, were supportive of the bill. In his sponsorship, Cibac Rep. Sherwin Tugna noted how “secrecy in government” could make corruption flourish.

Read Next
LATEST STORIES
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Assistant Secretary Christian Ablan, Duterte Administration, Freedom of Information, media issues, Philippine news updates, Presidential Communications Office, press freedom
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2019 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.