EO on freedom of information takes effect today: Palace

Posted on November 25, 2016

MALACAÑANG ON Thursday, Nov. 24, disclosed a trimmed-down list of exemptions to Executive Order (EO) No. 2 on freedom of information that President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed on July 23 and which takes effect today, Friday, Nov. 25.

Initially drafted with 166 exemptions by the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the new list, following criticisms of the EO, is down to nine exemptions, as follows:

• Information covered by executive privilege;

• Privileged information relating to national security, defense, or international relations;

• Information concerning law enforcement and protection of public and personal safety;

• Information deemed confidential for the protection of the privacy and of certain individuals such as minors, victims of crimes or the accused;

• Information, documents, or records known by reason of official capacity and deemed confidential, including those submitted or disclosed by entities to government agencies, tribunals and boards or officers, in relation to the performance of their functions or to inquires or investigation conducted by them in the exercise of their administrative, regulatory or quasi-judicial powers;

• Prejudicial, premature disclosure;

• Records of proceedings or information from proceedings which pursuant to law or relevant rules and regulations are treated as confidential or privileged;

• Matters considered confidential under banking and finance laws and their amendatory laws; and

• Other exemptions to the right to information under laws, jurisprudence, and rules and regulations.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Communications Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan said DoJ and OSG “are directed to update this list when the need arises before circulation.”

He added that a Memorandum Circular will be signed by Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea that will “detail what specific instances fall under each category.”

Mr. Ablan also clarified that the initial 166 exemptions were “just an inventory of different exceptions, by statute and by jurisprudence,” adding that his office “adopted the best practice of other countries,” particularly those from the US and Australia.

Meanwhile, today’s FoI program implementation will be accompanied with an electronic-FoI (e-FoI), an online platform open to the public that will facilitate requests for data and information.

The e-FoI platform will initially be available for a few government agencies in its beta phase, including the Presidential Communications Office, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, DoJ and OSG.

“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,” Mr. Ablan said.

The public can access the e-FoI through -- Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral