MANILA – The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) is seeking for the issuance of a certification for FOI Bill to an urgent legislative measure of the Duterte administration.
During the Network Briefing News on Thursday, PCOO Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan cited that the PCOO is currently leading the expansion of the reach of FOI by fortifying efforts on implementing access to information at the local level.
“PCOO is committed to institutionalize the FOI across all branches of government by Congress passing legislation on access to information which will mandate the disclosure of government information in the interim,” he said.
The agency has already drafted an admin version of the FOI bill that was presented to its FOI networks in the Senate and in the House of the Representatives, while also requesting the Office of the President to certify it as an urgent bill.
“We have also requested the issuance of a certification of the FOI as an urgent legislative measure by the Office of the President or the inclusion of FOI as part of the President’s legislative agenda for this year 2020,” Asec. Ablan added.
Thirty years since the first Freedom of Information bill was filed by late Senator Raul Roco, the Congress has yet to pass a legislation that would harmonize and operationalize the people’s right to access information.
In December 2019, Quezon City Congressman Alfred Vargas filed House Bill No. 05776 also known as the FOI Act of 2019 which has adopted the feature proposed by the PCOO.
“Mahalaga na maipasa sa lalong madaling panahon ang FOI law upang lubos na mabigyan ng kapangyarihan ang ating mga mamamayan na makilahok sa gobyerno sa pamamagitan ng paghiling ng impormasyon at upang maging mas bukas pa ang ating burukrasya. [It is important that the FOI law be passed as soon as possible to empower our citizens for government participation by requesting information and to make our bureaucracy even more open],” he said.
“Dahil sa angking limitasyon sa kasalukuyang EO, ang FOI-PMO ay nagmungkahi ng isang panukalang batas upang higit na mapalawak ang saklaw ng FOI sa ating pamahalaan. [Due to the limitations in the current EO, the FOI-PMO has proposed a bill to further expand the scope of FOI in our government],” he added.
Salient features of the bill include crafting a mechanism that will refer and transfer requests to appropriate agencies that should address the said request, and creation of a records management system.
An oversight body or the FOI Commission will also be established, along with the creation of a central appeals and review committee (CARC) for all FOI compliant agencies in the three major branches of the government—Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary.
The Office of the Ombudsman will also have the power to review the decisions from the CARC.