Duterte to implement FOI in executive branch

MANILA, Philippines -- Congress may have repeatedly bypassed the bill that would have enabled it but freedom of information will soon be implemented, at least in the executive branch through an executive order (EO) to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the order requiring offices under the executive branch to release details of their transactions may be issued as early as this week.
“We are finishing the draft executive order for the freedom of information,” Andanar told government radio station dzRB on Sunday.
“We hope to finish it this week or next week. That is the commitment of the president to us,” he added.
An EO only covers government offices under the executive branch. An FOI law is needed to require all government entities, including those in the legislature and judiciary, to release documents detailing their transactions and projects.
Andanar said the EO is in line with Duterte’s vow to promote transparency in government.
“This is a proactive stance of the Durterte administration to establish very transparent executive portfolios and in keeping with the president’s promise to deliver FOI once sworn into office,” he said.
Article III, section 7 of the 1987 Constitution recognizes the people's right to information on matters of public concern.
“Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law,” the provision reads.

No enabling law for FOI

The public, however, has not fully enjoyed the constitutional guarantee because of the absence of an enabling law.
The FOI, which would serve as the enabling law of the constitutional guarantee, was first filed during the 12th Congress. The measure, however, was repeatedly bypassed by lawmakers, many of whom belong to prominent political families. Previous reports said the FOI was opposed by some lawmakers who fear that it might be used against them by their enemies.
The FOI is one of the campaign promises of former President Benigno Aquino III, who vowed to implement a strong anti-corruption drive. The 16th Congress, however, failed to enact the measure even if majority of its members were Aquino allies.
Despite the lack of an FOI law, the Aquino administration, through its Open Government Partnership, attempted to make government more transparent.
It launched, for example, Data.gov.ph, which it said, "aims to make national government data searchable, accessible, and useful, with the help of the different agencies of government, and with the participation of the public."
Last month, Dutere said he would implement FOI through an executive order if Congress refuses to pass a measure enabling it.
“If Congress does not like it, I will start with this progressively. To avoid too much talk, Day One, freedom of information, I will impose it on my department, the executive department," he said.
"I will issue an executive order. No need for a law. Media and everybody else is welcome to dig deep into the papers," he added.

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