Duterte to sign order on FOI in time for SONA
Giovanni Nilles (The Philippine Star) - July 23, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte will sign the long-awaited executive order on freedom of information (FOI), giving greater public access to government documents and transactions, in time for his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Malacañang assured the public yesterday.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar gave the assurance in a text message to Palace reporters but did not answer questions on why the release of the EO was taking so long.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella also did not provide details as he advised media to wait for the SONA and the release of the FOI.

Duterte, who vowed to promote transparency in governance, earlier ordered the drafting of an executive order that would allow the public to secure government records and transactions, except for those affecting national security, in all offices under the executive branch.

He earlier said he was going to approach the FOI issue progressively, starting with the departments and agencies under the Office of the President, if Congress would refuse to pass a measure enabling it.

“I will issue an executive order. No need for a law. Media and everybody else is welcome to dig deep into the papers,” Duterte earlier said.

An FOI law is needed to require all government entities, including those in the legislative and judicial branches, to release documents detailing their projects and other transactions. 

A bill was first filed during the 12th Congress but was repeatedly bypassed by lawmakers, many of whom were from prominent political families. Previous reports said some lawmakers opposed the measure fearing it might be used by political opponents.

Former president Benigno Aquino III also pushed for the FOI as an integral part of his administration’s Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan of 2012 to 2016.

The plan laid out reforms and initiatives for greater transparency, accountability and citizen participation in governance. Congress failed to act on Aquino’s  proposed bill, however, until he stepped down from office on June 30.

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