Rappler reporter Pia Ranada posted a photo of a document from the Malacañang Records Office showing that her request for the list of delegates and expenses for President Rodrigo Duterte’s China and Russian trips was denied. She posted the photo as a way of fact-checking Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella’s statement saying that her FOI request “was not denied.”
The photo was reposted by Rappler on Facebook on June 22.
“FACT CHECK: Abella says Rappler’s FOI request on cost of Russia, China trips wasn’t denied. Wrong. It was denied, see below,” Ranada wrote.
The document read:
“We regret to inform that your request is DENIED at this time since the requested information is not in the possession of this Office. Further, the request involves the generation of a list, which is not covered by the right to information. We refer to the case of Valmonte v. Belmonte Jr. (G.R. No. 74930, 13 February 1989) wherein the Supreme Court held that ‘[a]lthough citizens are afforded the right to information and pursuant, thereto, are entitled to ‘access to official records,’ the Constitution does not accord them a right to compel custodians of official records to prepare lists, abstracts, summaries and the like in their desire to acquire information on matters of public concern.”
Not withstanding the foregoing, the Office of the President, in the spirit of transparency and accountability in government transactions and fully mindful of the constitutional declaration of policy to implement a policy full of public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest, has in past occasions granted similar requests and released a list of delegates and expenses incurred for the President’s foreign trips, despite the information being covered by an FOI exception.
We shall gladly accommodate your request once the requested information becomes available for release.”
She wrote the post around an hour after Abella’s press briefing, together with DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, on June 22 at around 11am. The video of the briefing was broadcasted via Facebook Live by the Presidential Communications (Government of the Philippines) Facebook page.
Towards the end of the briefing, Abella summarized the questions that were asked.
At mark -0:40 (or 40:08), Abella read: “Rappler’s FOI request about Russia and China was denied. It was not denied. It was simply referred to the proper office.”
In the comment section of Rappler’s post showing the document from Malacañang, the netizens argued over the interpretation of what the document is trying to say.
One called out Ranada and Rappler for the misleading caption after pointing out how it was not denied “in spirit or actuality.”
Others supported the interpretation seeing as how the Office of the President does not have a copy of the records yet.
However, some thought that the letter used “wordplay” as their “loophole” so they won’t have to give the records.
Other netizens agreed that the letter really meant to deny Ranada’s request, which contradicted Abella’s earlier claim.
The netizen who earlier called out the misleading caption later relented to say that he was not aware what Abella said and admitted that there was indeed something wrong with how Abella said it. He also defended his earlier comment.
One netizen offered her simple interpretation of the letter – “Ma’am, tawagan nalang po namin kayo.”
The comments section on Rappler’s Facebook post is quite interesting, but so is the thread on Twitter, where Ranada answered some of the Twitter users.
@buddymigs noted the reason for the denial of Ranada’s FOI request.
But Ranada replied that she considered the reason, hence she planned to submit another request.
“Yup thats why I plan to request again. I just wanted to correct Abella’s statement that it was NOT DENIED. It was,” Ranada tweeted.
Someone even brought lawyer Ferdinand Topacio to the thread. Topacio called out Rappler for “being formalistic” and cited that there was reason for the denial. However, Ranada insisted that it was “still denied” and that Abella was wrong for saying otherwise.
@thischloegirl offered a more appropriate word for the FOI situation – “pending.”
You can read the rest of the exchange between the netizens here:
— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) June 22, 2017