PCOO exec expects passage of FOI law

MANILA — A Communications official is counting on the Congress to pass a Freedom of Information (FOI) law before the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term in 2022.

Communications Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan, also FOI Program Director, is hoping that both the Senate and the House of Representatives (HoR) find time to continue deliberating on the FOI law before next year’s mid-term elections in May.

“We’ve been constantly following up with the office of Senator (Grace) Poe who is our principal sponsor in the Senate, and (House Speaker Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo in the House,” Ablan said.

“Who knows, before Congress adjourns before elections makasingit yung (they can insert the) FOI law because this has been debated for so long already–more than 20 years already,” he added.

Ablan said legislators should, by now, know the nuances of the FOI and free from doubts that the measure will cause a breach on government data privacy.

“More or less our legislators should already know the nuances of FOI. You have EO No. 2 (the Freedom of Information Executive Order) which PCOO has implemented nationwide for the past two years and we showed our legislators that there’s nothing to be scared of,” Ablan said.

“FOI is a Constitutional right. Hopefully, they approve the law, so it will also include Congress and Judiciary,” he added.

Ablan further allayed fears that the FOI law would breach data privacy, noting that only a small percentage of individuals sought personal information from government at all.

“Personal information forms a small part of FOI request. That’s the concern, that FOI will be used for data mining on personal information of themselves by their political opponents,” Ablan said.

Based on the data gathered from the eFOI, the most requested information are legal documents/resources such as memo circulars, board resolutions, orders, contracts (45 percent); statistics, data sets and research such as project/program details, quantitative data (41 percent); and personal information such as statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth; personal data sheets; monthly salaries of government officials; and travel expenses (7 percent).

The purpose for making requests were made for research (53 percent), school thesis and/or reports (27 percent), personal consumption (10 percent), and other reasons (10 percent).

Meanwhile, Ablan expressed confidence that the Executive Department’s FOI is a “thriving and strong program” of the Duterte administration.

“We have a lot of success stories on FOI. Our success rate on the online portal is 40 percent which is within the global average. Meaning to say out of every 10 FOI requests, four are successful,” Ablan said.

“Are we satisfied? Of course not, we’d like to have more but to say that FOI is unsuccessful is not the correct observation. We think it’s working,” he added.

On July 23, 2016, Duterte signed the FOI Executive Order which requires all executive departments, agencies, bureaus, and offices to make public records, contracts, transactions, and any information requested by a member of the public, except for sensitive information and matters affecting national security.

Under the FOI, any Filipino can make an FOI request as long as requesting parties present proof of identification such as a passport, driver’s license, voter’s ID, in the submission of an FOI request. PNA-northboundasia.com