President Rodrigo Duterte signed his second executive order (EO) on July 23 to implement the freedom of information (FOI) mechanism in the executive branch of the government. However, it also came with a provision denying access to information that “falls under any of the exception enshrined in the constitution existing law or jurisprudence,” according to a Rappler report. Rappler also wrote that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) were tasked to provide a list of exceptions to be submitted to Duterte’s office within 30 calendar days since the EO was inked.
On August 28, the DOJ and the OSG delivered on that task with a draft of the FOI Manual, which listed 166 exceptions.
And the ever vocal netizen Miyako Izabel called the Duterte administration out for issuing an EO only to heavily limit the information that will actually be accessed by the public.
In her Facebook post on August 29 entitled, “NAGAGO NA NAMAN KAYO AT NAUTO KASI NGA NAGPAPANIWALA,” she reminded her followers on how she predicted that this would happen.
“Ang mga dating post ko tungkol sa pambobolang Executive Order para raw sa pag-iimplementa ng Freedom of Information sa executive department. Mali ba ako? Noon pa naamoy ko na. Hindi ako manghuhula ha. Hindi lang ako nagpapagago, nagpapakabobo, at nagpapauto,” Izabel said.
She even compared the blurred lines between propagandas and policies.
“Nakakatakot na talaga ang pattern. Parang Malabo na ang pagitan ng propaganda at ng polisiya,” she added.
In her previous Facebook post, she opined that there should only be two exemptions to the FOI – “military, diplomatic and other national security matters” and “matters affecting national security and public order.”
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said that the exceptions will still be reviewed by the Office of Deputy Executive Secretary for Legislative Affairs (ODESLA).
According to reports by GMA News Online and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, among the exceptions to the FOI are requesting information such as the following:
- Information that affects national security and the state’s internal or external defense
- Information that involves foreign affairs that may have an impact on ongoing bilateral or multilateral negotiations; are classified law enforcement matters
- Anything that involves investigations conducted by public authorities
- Filipinos’ medical records
- “Secrecy of Bank Deposits” as well as those of foreign currency
- “Information that would put the life and safety of an individual in imminent danger”
- Information considered as privileged information in legal proceedings by law or by the rules of court
- Information obtained by either house of Congress or its committees during an executive session
- Lists and detailed reports on how congressional funds were disbursed
- “Confidentiality of information known to a public official or employee by reason of his office”
- Executive privilege involving information on the President’s appointment, pardon, and use of diplomatic powers
- Minutes of decision-making and policy formulation meetings that the President classifies as privileged
- School records, employment records, birth records, and personal and sensitive information concerning natural persons “resulting in invasion of privacy”
- Statements of assets, liability and net worth (SALN) of government officials, if the purpose of disclosure is contrary to morals or public policy or if the information is intended to be released for commercial purpose other than for public dissemination by news media
- Trade secrets, confidential commercial and financial data, and business information collected by government agencies on the books, operations, and records of private corporations
- Antimoney laundering concerns and reports on related transactions
The draft also gave more details on how to request for information, which include the following steps:
- A records officer (RO) shall assess the information being requested, pinpoint the FOI decision maker of the agency concerned, and notify him or her of the request.
- The DM will screen the request and decide on whether the request will be granted or not. He or she shall submit the requested information to the RO within 10 days.
- The RO shall transmit the requested documents to the requesting party within 15 days, or if needed, within 20 working days.
- In case of denial, the requesting party can appeal the decision to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Central Appeals and Review Committee, which will be comprised of three members designated by the Communications Secretary.
Since Duterte’s FOI only covers the executive branch, Congress has to pass an FOI law that will cover all branches of government.