FOI-PMO: Gov’t ensuring transparency, accountability in public service
The Freedom of Information-Project Management Office (FOI-PMO) expresses its gratitude to the Philippine Daily Inquirer for its recent editorial, “Fresh Push for FOI” (7/05/19). The material opened a new discussion on the revival of the freedom of information bill in both houses.
The article, however, presented a limited view on the predicament of the passage of an FOI law under the current administration. It failed to look at the bigger picture on FOI implementation, thereby discrediting the accomplishments and successes of the current FOI program. FOI-PMO hopes to clarify and address certain issues through this response.
Since the onset of President Duterte’s presidency, FOI has been a priority project aligned with the Good Governance Plan that promotes greater transparency, accountability and citizen participation. The President signed Executive Order No. 2, Series of 2016 (EO 2) weeks after his assumption to office. This proves the President’s commitment to creating a more open and transparent government under his tenure. EO 2 enables the implementation of FOI in all offices under the executive branch—including national government agencies (NGAs), government corporations (GOCCs), state schools (SUCs) and local water districts (LWDs).
To date, 186 NGAs, 92 GOCCs, 76 SUCs and 89 LWDs are onboard the eFOI Portal (www.foi.gov.ph). These numbers are still growing, as the FOI-PMO is actively advocating FOI compliance in government agencies through its regular orientations, trainings, roadshows and campus tours. Further, almost three years since the issuance of EO 2, the eFOI Portal has already received 14,200 requests from the public.
While we recognize that EO 2 is already effective in promoting the rights of the people to information from the executive branch of government, it still lacks the teeth to compel the legislative and judiciary, as well as local government units, to follow suit. The FOI-PMO has been in constant coordination with the other branches of government to create similar policies and systems in tune with the transparency and accountability thrust of the government.
As an independent body, the Supreme Court passed its Rule on Access to Information last year, and ordered the creation of FOI manuals in the entire judiciary which includes the Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals and the lower courts.
As part of its policy and program development, FOI-PMO constantly lobbies both houses for the passage of an FOI law. FOI-PMO provides policy acumen and recommendations to enhance the proposed FOI bills.
FOI-PMO and the Department of the Interior and Local Government issued a joint memorandum circular that encourages local government units nationwide to localize FOI implementation in their respective LGUs. To date, 13 LGUs from Luzon (with one in Metro Manila) to Mindanao have their own FOI ordinances.
Although not covered by EO 2, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit have already implemented FOI in their respective jurisdictions. In addition, FOI-PMO also collaborates with different agencies in ironing out specific policies and systems that might be affected in the implementation of FOI. These include the disclosure of public officials’ statement of assets and liabilities (SALN) and personnel data sheet (PDS)—at the same time complying with the Data Protection Act of 2012. FOI-PMO has worked with the Civil Service Commission in drafting the 2018 SALN guidelines, and with the National Privacy Commission in coming up with NPC Advisory No. 2017-02 on the disclosure of PDS.
For the past three years, FOI-PMO has continuously involved and engaged different implementers and stakeholders to achieve its main goal of providing Filipino citizens greater transparency and accountability in public service, by upholding the people’s constitutional right to information on government records and transactions.
The Congress, government offices, local governments, the media and the academe are our conduit in providing different means of support for the program. In order to enable our implementers and stakeholders to reach goals, it is important that knowledge gaps on various aspects of Freedom of Information and Access to Information are bridged—and an enabling environment is created.
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