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Duterte's EO may pave way for FOI law, senators say

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signs the Freedom of Information (FOI) Executive Order in Davao on July 23. Witnessing the signing are Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar and Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella. Presidential Photographers Division/Karl Alonzo

MANILA, Philippines — A number of senators on Sunday showed support for the executive order (EO) on Freedom of Information (FOI) signed by President Rodrigo Duterte Saturday evening which they said would speed up the process for the passage of the FOI law.

Sen. Grace Poe thanked Duterte for starting the implementation of FOI “at least in the executive branch.”

“This is already indeed a milestone. There are a lot of things that we need to continue with regard to the Freedom of Information in other branches of government but we await with much anticipation that full implementation in the Executive branch,” Poe said in a televised phone interview with ANC.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said the EO is “a step from no transparency to this [admin with FOI EO].”

Meanwhile, Aquilino Pimentel III said he supports the EO as the measure opens the "government and officials to the scrutiny of the people."

"With the help of our people, we can continue the war on waste, inefficiency, and corruption that was promised by our president,” the senator said, adding that Duterte could expect the Senate to follow his lead with a bill to implement FOI in all government branches.

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Likewise, former Bayan Munar party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said the EO would speed up the processing of the FOI bill in the legislative branch.

“The law must still be passed, and I believe the FOI EO will pave the way for that,” he added.

'Political masterstroke'

Trillanes said Duterte’s move to create an FOI executive order was a “political masterstroke.”

“They were able to come up with an FOI under their own terms because if we're going to pass a law, it won't be in their hands. There might be provisions there detrimental to their interests,” he explained.

However, Poe said the Duterte administration needs to determine the exceptions of the FOI as well as the penalties for government officials who would fail to comply with the order. She said a minor penalty would not motivate them to comply with the law.

RELATED: Duterte signs historic EO on Freedom of Information

Colmenares echoed Poe saying that the current administration "must not follow the exceptions set by the Aquino admin before.”

On the other hand, Trillanes said the clamor for the FOI would not be diminished by the EO since there are certain things the law could do and the EO could not. He explained that one thing was that sanctions higher than an administrative penalty could not be imposed under an EO.

"We won't settle with an EO,” the senator said.

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