THE Freedom of Information (FOI) order is a primary tool of the Duterte administration in its crusade against corruption in government.

Presidential Communications Operation Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan stressed this during the Asean-PCOO Roadshow in Baguio City last week.

Ablan explained that President Rodrigo Duterte in his conviction for transparency, signed Executive Order (EO) 2 or the FOI in the Executive Branch last July 23, 2016. The EO mandates full public disclosure and transparency in the public service of all offices under the executive branch.

The FOI enables public access to government information particularly on agencies under the Executive Department. It is for researchers, journalists, families, civil society organizations, human rights groups, businesses and government agencies Ablan said.

Aimed to provide window for transparency and good governance, the public may request for needed information like official or public records, documents, transcripts, papers, photos, film, sound and video recording, electronic data on official acts, transactions, decisions, and research data, through letter request.

However, to assure and maintain stability of operation in government, certain exceptions to the FOI are instilled as recognized by the Constitution, existing laws or jurisprudence, Ablan said.

Among the exceptions include executive privilege; information related to national security, defense or international relation; information concerning law enforcement and protection of public and personal safety; information for the protection of the privacy of persons and certain individuals; disclosures on government functions and investigations; prejudicial premature disclosure; records of proceedings; banking and finance disclosures and other exceptions to right to information under existing laws, jurisprudence and regulations.

Agencies are mandated to formulate People’s FOI Manual that covers requests for access to information to include location and contact details of offices where the public can submit requests and the schedule of applicable fees. To date, 131 government agencies have submitted their People’s FOI Manual, the ASEC said.

Ablan stressed that concerned agency must grant or deny the request within 15 working days.

The FOI is a great equalizer; it seeks to give the best services and make better decisions, Ablan stressed as he urged local officials to pass FOI ordinance in their respective local government units.

The FOI is one of the landmark orders of the Duterte Administration discussed during the Asean-PCOO Roadshow in Baguio City last week. (JDP/LL-PIA CAR, Kalinga)