PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson said yesterday that apart from an executive order to enforce Freedom of Information (FOI) in the executive department, more developments are in store for journalists and those seeking government information.
In a forum held in the Marcelo Fernan Cebu Press Center yesterday, Martin Andanar, Presidential Communications Office secretary, told journalism and communications students that the FOI executive order will apply not only to those requesting information directly from government offices, but also to those who seek it online.
Targeted for implementation on Nov. 25, the Electronic Freedom of Information (E-FOI) policy will require government offices under the executive department to update their official websites and make these more accessible to the public.
Andanar said that agencies who fail to comply with the President’s mandate will face administrative sanctions and will also be charged with violating the Anti-Red Tape Act.
The forum, organized by The Freeman and sponsored by the Visayan Electric Company, was one of the activities for Cebu Press Freedom Week, which will end today.
Andanar said that the approval of the FOI executive order could serve as a case study for Congress to come up with a unified FOI law.
Several versions of the FOI bill continue to circulate, and efforts to get one enacted into law have lasted for more than a decade.
Andanar also admitted that readying government agencies to comply with the FOI executive order takes time and effort.
A draft FOI manual is also in the works and is being studied by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General.
Andanar said that both the DOJ and SolGen are still studying the 166 exemptions in the draft FOI manual.
He added that 166 exemptions on the draft FOI manual are being considered because refer to information that the national government doesn’t need to be disclosed, such as information that involves national security.
Rappler reported last Aug. 28, 2016 that the exceptions in the draft manual include information that may “weaken the negotiating position of the government” in foreign affairs; “minutes and advice given and opinions expressed during decision-making or policy formulation”; and reports on the “apprehension, prosecution and detention of criminals” as well as investigations.