Nov. 24, 2016 – Press Conference of Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary for Policy and Legislative Affairs Kris Ablan and Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary for Operations and Special Concerns Marie Banaag
|Press Conference of Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary for Policy and Legislative Affairs Kris Ablan and Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary for Operations and Special Concerns Marie Banaag|
|Press Briefing Room, New Executive Bldg., Malacañang|
|24 November 2016|
ASEC. ABLAN: Thank you Sweeden. Good morning, everyone. A pleasant good morning to everyone.
Today, I will be talking about the Freedom of Information program, pursuant to Executive Order No. 2, Series of 2016, Operationalizing the Freedom of Information in the Executive Branch.
Just to give you some updates. Tomorrow will be the 120th day since the publication of the Executive Order, which means that by tomorrow, all government agencies under the Executive branch should be able to have its own People’s FOI Manual and implementing details or agency FOI Manual so that the public or Filipino citizens can lodge FOI applications.
To commemorate the 120th day, there will be a short program tomorrow to turnover the People’s FOI manuals of the line agencies, as well as to launch and present the electronic FOI or e-FOI facility to the Office of the President, to Executive Secretary Medialdea.
And so, in the People’s FOI manuals, the Secretary of Communications, Secretary Martin Andanar, will be presenting to the Office of the President our model agency FOI Manual and our model People’s FOI Manual so that the public will be informed on how to lodge FOI applications.
The same time, the Secretary will be presenting to the Executive Secretary our standard FOI request form and as you can see here, it will inform the public on what is FOI, what can they ask from FOI. And, when you open the application form, they will see, they have to fill in the fields, wherein they have to describe what document they’re looking for, what years, and so on, so forth.
There are already several agencies that have complied with the Executive Order. The first government office to submit its FOI Manual is the National Historical Commission of the Philippines or NHCP. They submitted their FOI manuals last month.
Other agencies who have submitted or complied with the Executive Order are the Department of Finance, the Parole and Probation Administration, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the National Housing Authority, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency or NICA, the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, the Land Bank, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. So we have 10 agencies who have so far submitted their FOI manuals.
I’ll show you one of the said manuals. So, while this is our model FOI manual. Like I said, the Executive Order instructs all agencies to draft their own People’s FOI Manual. And their own agency FOI Manual and this is an example of a People’s FOI Manual of the Land Bank.
So it already includes the procedure, the contact details of all of the FOI receiving officers and FOI decision-makers. It also shows the different application forms. If you want to lodge an FOI request at the Land Bank, it also includes a list of exceptions which the bank conducted an inventory of.
So I mentioned earlier, apart from the ceremonial turnover of FOI manuals to the Office of the President, coming from the line agencies and other offices. We’re also unveiling and launching the electronic FOI or e-FOI which is an online facility wherein citizens are able to lodge their applications online.
Instead of going to, let’s say the national office of the Department of Agrarian Reform or going straight to the Philippine Statistics Authority, they can actually lodge online and file a request and it will be received by a counterpart receiving officer at the Department and then likewise evaluated, and approved or denied by a decision-maker.
So they will still follow the process written in the Executive Order. So, but, the e-FOI is only available for a select few agencies.
It’s… the e-FOI is still beta program and we expect to learn from the facility and improve on it and hopefully by next year 2017 to 2018, we’ll have a government-wide implementation of electronic FOI because this is a best practice we adopted from other countries who implement the Freedom of Information or access to information already.
There are 15 agencies on board on e-FOI so in the 15 agencies are of course the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the DBM or the Department of Budget and Management, the DOF or the Department of Finance, the Department of Justice or the DOJ, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health, Philippine Statistics Authority, the National Archives of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, PhilHealth, the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, the Presidential Commission on Good Government or PCGG, the Office of the Solicitor General or the OSG, and the Public Attorneys Office.
So these 15 departments and attached agencies are on board to pilot the beta system of the electronic FOI and starting tomorrow, citizens who have queries on FOI can lodge their queries online on the website which is www.foi.gov.ph.
So again, if you have queries and you want to lodge it online, it has to be limited to the 15 agencies. Outside the 15 agencies, then you have to go through the normal standard, paper-based process of going to the nearest government office in lodging your application there.
And last which is most important to everyone would be the list of exceptions. We have the list of exceptions ready and I will show with everyone here on the Malacañang Press Corps the nine list.
You may recall, there was news that 166 exceptions going around a few months ago would render the FOI EO meaningless or useless because there will be several exceptions.
But the truth of the matter is, the list that was talked about a few months ago was just an inventory of different exceptions, by statute and by jurisprudence and again we—since then, we adopted the best practice of other countries which categorized and group the several exceptions into major categories and in all of our FOI workshops, we were able to share to them that Australia only has nine exceptions, the US also has nine exceptions, and the Philippines, under EO No. 2 will have nine exceptions.
The exceptions originated from the OSG and the DOJ and they complied with their duty to submit a list and inventory of exceptions back in August.
Since then, the Office of the President, the OP Legal Office studied and tried to categorize and I’m pleased to inform everyone that we have the list of exceptions. The memo from the Executive Secretary will be signed today.
Alright, the list of exceptions. For the guidance of all government offices covered by Executive Order No. 2, series of 2016 and the general public, the following are the exceptions to the right of access to information as recognized by the Constitution, existing laws or jurisprudence.
Pursuant to Section 4 of the Executive Order, the list of exceptions shall be periodically updated by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General and they are directed to update this list when the need arises before circulation. So those are the nine list of FOI exceptions.
The MC to be signed by the Executive Secretary will detail what specific instances fall under each category. I will be distributing copies of the list of FOI exceptions to the press corps after the briefing.
So, again tomorrow is the official rollout of the Freedom of Information Executive Order, November 25, there will be a turnover of FOI manuals from agencies to the Office of the President at 3 p.m. at Heroes Hall.
And likewise, we will be unveiling the electronic FOI or the website foi.gov.ph which has around 15 agencies and it’s in beta and these are the pilot agencies, we thank these agencies for coming on board, this electronic version of the Freedom of Information.
And hopefully, by 2017, we’re able to roll e-FOI across all government agencies. And also hopefully, we’re able to convince our legislators to pass an FOI act, because as you know the Executive Order cannot rise higher than law and we need an Executive Order to cover offices under the legislature and the judiciary as well as the Constitutional Commissions.
So thank you.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Benjie Liwanag (DZBB): Good morning sir. Ang first question ko, what would, are there any sanctions doon sa mga agencies that would not comply with the regulations na inilabas for the FOI?
ASEC. ABLAN: Yes, the Executive Order says that the agencies do not comply with the regulation maybe administratively charged. But the Executive Order is unclear, so we leave it to the Office of the President to discipline these agencies who do not comply.
But as far as I know, all agencies are complying with their FOI manuals, we informedthem that implementing FOI is not done overnight.
Countries across the world usually take between 18 months to five years to rollout a very good FOI program and we informed the agencies during our FOI workshops that it’s all right to come up with a provisional FOI manual by tomorrow.
The important thing is by tomorrow people should be able to lodge an FOI request or application by tomorrow because that’s the written in the Executive Order.
So it’s all right, we informed them to have provisional FOI manuals because we understand later on they can make some revisions. So from our understanding and our office monitoring these agencies, they will comply by tomorrow.
Mr. Liwanag: Who will monitor for all the agencies? Will there be a, an office that would handle the monitoring for these agencies, for all the agencies?
ASEC. ABLAN: Yes. There is a pending Administrative Order which is creating an interagency committee to monitor open data and FOI programs. Until the approval of that Administrative Order creating that particular group, then it’s the Presidential Communications Operation Office doing the monitoring of compliance because it was delegated to us by the Executive Secretary last July 25.
Mr. Liwanag: Thank you very much.
Marlon Ramos (Philippine Daily Inquirer): Sir, were you able to get the comment or opinion of media groups and anti-corruption watchdog regarding the exceptions?
ASEC. ABLAN: Yes. The Executive Order which was drafted back in July had a collaboration with the different civil society organizations and NGOs, led by the Right to Know, Right Now Coaliton.
And so in the development of the Executive Order and the list of exceptions, their proposals were taken into consideration by the OP Legal.
Until the list of the, list of exceptions when our office goes around to discuss the FOI program to different agencies, the list of exceptions that we share with them, because agencies are asking, what are the exceptions.
We actually told them that it’s going to be closely related to the proposed exceptions of the Right to Know Right Now Coalition.
And comparing the proposals of the Right to Know, Right Now Coalition with the list of exceptions coming from the Office of the President, more or less they are the same, similar.
Mr. Ramos: Sir can you give us some examples of prejudicial, premature information?
ASEC. ABLAN: Alright. Prejudicial, premature information involves financial institutions. So, when there’s certain information, for example, regarding securities or stocks. A person cannot ask for information regarding that because it will effect the, affects market stability. So that’s what you mean by prejudicial, premature… I don’t wanna be wrong here. Prejudicial, premature disclosure.
Chona Yu (Radyo Inquirer): Sir, ano ‘yung timeframe for example nag-request ako ngayon ng documents, like how many days dapat ‘yun maibigay sa’kin?
ASEC. ABLAN: Alright. So, since the publication of the Executive Order, we’ve received some instances where citizens did lodge FOI applications and we had to explain to them that FOI doesn’t rollout until tomorrow, November 25. Because the Office of the President, gave agencies a 120 days to prepare.
So if an FOI application is lodge tomorrow, the Executive Order says that the agency is given 15 working days to address the particular FOI request.
If the request involves a complex information or data set, then the agency can extend the processing time by another 20 working days. So a total of 35 working days non-extendable.
Ms. Yu: What if they cannot comply?
ASEC. ABLAN: If the agency does not comply within the 35 maximum working days, then the aggrieved citizen or requestor can actually make an appeal to the office or person next in, higher authority to address the FOI query. So there is an appeals process within the agency.
ASEC. BANAAG: Thank you, Sweeden. Good morning. Good morning members of the Malacañang Press Corps.
We have three points and I’m sure everybody is so excited to watch the hearing at the House of Representatives so I’ll make this so short and brief.
On the scheduled rallies for tomorrow and other days, the instructions of the President is very clear. That he respects the right of citizens to protest against the Marcos burial. The protesters don’t need to secure rally permits in fear of being evicted.
And the President emphasized that he may not agree on the opinions of the protesters and he may not agree on what they say, but he will protect their right to say it and that is how he expressed our democracy.
On the Maguindanao massacre that was the anniversary was yesterday and we are aware that it has been seven years since the Maguindanao massacre happened.
We are hopeful and we would like to appeal to the court, the courts, the judiciary, to find [garbled] ways to speed up resolution of the case.
On the part of the Executive department, the President signed Administrative Order No. 1, Creating a Presidential Task Force on Media Security
It will have an inventory of all cases of violence against the media and even cases under investigation, or trial, and unresolved cases.
And, lastly, the comment of the New Zealand Minister that the President is tough but warm and courteous. The President as we would see him is… he may be talking tough and he’d been talking tough for the past months and sometimes he had been ridiculed for talking tough and taking hard stance on different issues. Yet he is sensitive and has a soft heart for the less privileged and our less privileged countrymen and the marginalized sector of our society.
His foreign policy is always predicated upon the pursuit of the paramount national interest. Thank you.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Mr. Liwanag: Good morning ma’am.
ASEC. BANAAG: Good morning.
Mr. Liwanag: Ma’am ‘yung tanong ko lang. Yesterday, si PNP Chief Director General Ronald Bato De La Rosa, sinabi niya sa Senate na huwag sanang ma-coup d’etat si Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte. This is something serious. It seems that the President was also talking about that.
So until now, meron pa po bang destabilization effort or coup d’etat effort until now ma’am that you know about?
ASEC. BANAAG: Well, so far, that is General Bato’s opinion because he broke down yesterday at the Senate hearing and ang kay General Bato, this is the way we see why General Bato said so.
That’s because he knew that, he knew all along that there are members in the police, in the PNP who maybe who may, who might have been so engaged in drug-related cases.
So alam nya na inasmuch as gusto niyang protektahan ang PNP. Alam niya na may mga disgruntled, may mga ayaw doon sa war on drugs at sana ang wish lang niya,ang gusto lang sana ni General Bato ay hindi hahantong doon sa punto na mag-iisip sila na mag coup d’etat kasi mahirap, mahirap mag—Nakakaawa rin si General Bato. Mahirap mag-protekta ng sarili mong organisasyon kung alam mo na may mga anay dito.
Mr. Liwanag: Ma’am, aside from the Philippine National Police, ‘yung sinasabi kong destabilization effort, politically, meron po ba politically motivated from the opposition camps or something. Kasi with what’s happening, like parang pinambabala ng gobyerno ‘yung sina Dayan, tapos si Espinosa. Tapos biglang nagsalita ng ganon si Bato, parang it seems, malalim masyado ‘yung sitwasyon ngayon. Pano po ba ipapaliwanag ‘to ng Malacañang, ma’am?
ASEC. BANAAG: Well, Benjie. We hope not. We hope not. And of course, mas maganda na si General Bato ang mag-explain kung bakit niya nasabi ito as to destabilization plots against the administration.
For now and of course, we will not hold the President for this statement. For now, wala pa tayong naririnig na tungkol dito.
May mga opinyon na hindi… may mga ouster opinions na gustong mag-oust sa Presidente. Pero sana hindi ito ang majority. Sana may mangilan-ngilang tao na nag-iisip tungkol dito.
And it’s politically motivated. Hindi dahil, hindi siya magaling na Presidente. Hindi dahil tamad siyang Presidente kung ‘di dahil ayaw lang talaga sa palakad niya.
Mr. Liwanag: Maraming salamat po.
Kris Jose (Remate): Ma’am, sa tingin niyo ba panahon na para i-consider ‘yung loyalty check sa hanay ng PNP, sa AFP, para masiguro lang po na walang coup d’etat or destab against the President?
ASEC. BANAAG: Mas maganda siguro na ang PNP ang makakapagkomento diyan dahil sila ang nakakaalam kung gaano ang problema sa PNP at para na rin maibalik ‘yung– So that the trust of the public would be brought back to the PNP. Mahirap kasi kapag ang civilian na, na personnel ng PNP, civilian in authority ay walang, walang, walang trust, walang trust ang taong bayan sa kanila, kasi saan sila pupunta.
Ms. Jose: Thank you ma’am.
Mr. Ramos: Ma’am, how do you reconcile President Duterte’s tough stance against corruption and his support for the Marcoses who we all know, the Marcos family has been, regardless, the most, probably the most corrupt political clan in our history?
ASEC. BANAAG: Well Marlon, the President had always been clear about that. And the President asked, tatanungin kung– Kaninang umaga ‘nong dumating siya, sabi niya, kung tatanungin ko kayo, tama ba ako pag sinabi kong si dating Presidente Marcos ay naging Presidente, at tama rin ba na sinabi ko na siya ay dating sundalo, and he is qualified.
As to whether the corruption aspect of that and he is being close to the Marcoses, that is another question and that is too personal for the President to decide.
As to corruption, as to the corruption issue, the PCGG has been created for that purpose, and it has been there for years now. So, I think it would be best that we ask PCGG kung ano ang nagawa nila sa ilang taon na, na nandoon ang opisina, because that is their very essence for being, having been created.
Mr. Ramos: So ma’am, are you saying that the President principle is much different from his own personal biases against certain political groups or family or supporters?
ASEC. BANAAG: That would be best explained by the President of course. The President has friends and kung sino ang gusto niya dahil may personal na reason siya kung bakit ‘yun ang gusto niya at ‘yun ang desisyon niya.
Like he said, we may not agree on their response, they, some people may not agree on their response on how he decides on things, but that is what he thinks is best and that is what he decided upon being the President and he stands by with it.
Mr. Ramos: Thank you.
Ted Tuvera (Daily Tribune): Ma’am, good morning po. Ma’am, ang sinasabi po kasi parati ni Presidente, ang argument niya parati na Mr. Marcos is a President and he’s a soldier. Pero nandoon pa rin po kasi ‘yung notion na Libingan ng mga Bayani ‘yung hero. And si President Duterte himself, he’s not clear on defining whether Marcos is a hero or not, or not. Ma’am, option po ba ma’am na palitan ‘yung mga, ‘yung pangalan ng Libingan ng mga Bayani?
ASEC. BANAAG: Pwede siguro kung ‘yun ang makakapag tahimik, patahimik sa ating mga kababayan. But of course they are not saying that they have to change it. Ang sinasabi lang po natin, kung sino man ang ahensiya na dapat ay pag-isipan kung pwedeng palitan o hindi nasa sa kanila na po ‘yun.
Mr Tuvera: Ma’am balikan ko lang po ‘yung sa usapin ng mga ouster plot, ma’am. Ma’am may worry, is the Palace worried about this notion that the protests against the Marcos burial might eventually translate into an ouster call against the President?
ASEC. BANAAG: Well we hope not, we pray not because the President has given all protesters leeway, much leeway, no permits na nga. They can air all their, they can ventilate their, their grievances. They can say whatever they want. It may not be something that would be favorable for the President. It maybe something that is against what the President wants but the President is giving them freedom to do so. And unlimited ‘yan if they want, perhaps to stay there for a week then, so be it. And of course he asked our military to exercise maximum tolerance and they should not threaten the protesters para they could freely voice out what they, they want.
Mr. Tuvera: Ma’am last for my part. Ma’am, clarification lang po kasi usually sinasabi ni Presidente na kapag may mga coup attempts or may mga calls na mag-resign siya, pag malaki daw or say pag may coup d’etat, magre-resign daw siya. Ma’am is it a joke?
ASEC. BANAAG: That we don’t know yet. Well, I’ll ask for the transcript on that ha, na nasabi ba ni Presidente ‘yun?
Mr. Tuvera: Sinasabi niya po kasi ma’am parati na he’s willing to–
ASEC. BANAAG: There are plenty of instances, there are many instances where the President you know, when the new order or when may federalismo na, when the Philippines is ready, then he could resign, that’s what he said. But as to coup d’etat, personally I don’t, I can’t comment on that.
Mr. Tuvera: Thank you ma’am.
ASEC. BANAAG: Thank you.