DepEd not found in PCO’s FOI
Amid the seemingly endless gloom and doom of the times, I thought I saw a glimmer of light and hope after reading the letter titled “PCO makes FOI easy and convenient” (Opinion, 1/31/17).
Following the instructions given there, I created an account at foi.gov.ph and made a request for a list of all the offices under the Department of Education, their officials and their functions; such basic information is surprisingly and suspiciously not available in the DepEd’s website. So it was a big letdown to discover that the DepEd is also not listed in the freedom of information website run by the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) under Secretary Martin Andanar.
The DepEd is the government’s biggest bureaucracy, so the records I’m asking to see should have been made available to the public from the start and at all times, to make it easy for people to transact business with the DepEd—and to ensure transparency in its operations. Failure or refusal to provide information as crucial as those I requested gives the impression that the DepEd is hiding something. Of course, the public has the right to accurate, readily-available information.
Last Aug. 22, I sent letters via courier service to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Commission on Audit Chair Michael Aguinaldo and Sen. Bam Aquino, head of the Senate committee on education, arts and culture. On Jan. 18, 2017, I also sent letters to President Duterte and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. And finally, heeding the Inquirer’s invitation to its readers to “write the Readers’ Advocate if you have any complaints, grievances or suggestions about the treatment of news by the PDI,” I sent the Reader’s Advocate a total of three letters (12/3/16, 12/16/16, 1/27/17).
To this date, all the people and institutions I mentioned have not responded, so I can’t help but feel that they must think themselves above the law (which says that government officials should respond to letters sent to them within 15 days) and the still higher laws of civility, etiquette and plain good manners. Why, even God in heaven responds when we talk to Him.
The PCO was tasked to make sure that all government agencies, including the Office of the President, comply with the President’s FOI executive order. The measure is meant to bridge the great gap and divide which separates the gods living on Mt. Olympus and the dirty, smelly mass of hoi polloi living down below before the gates of hell. The gods’ indifference, arrogance, insensitivity and insincerity lead me to think that the deafening silence I’m now hearing must be exactly like the one which prevails in omerta, or the sepulchral silence that walks and lives in the many graveyards and killing fields in our country.
ANTONIO CALIPJO GO, academic supervisor, Marian School of Quezon City
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