Duterte signs Executive Order on Freedom of Information

  • Pres. Rodrigo Duterte signed an EO on freedom of information in the executive branch
  • While there is still no FOI law, this is the closest to an FOI policy in the Philippines
  • Duterte had earlier promised to implement FOI in the executive branch even without such law

President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive  order (EO) on Freedom of Information (FOI) on Saturday night, July 23, 2016; practically implementing full public disclosure in the entire executive branch of government.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar noted the significance of the new policy, which was ironed out by Presidential Legal Counsel Secretary Salvador Panelo, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, and Undersecretary Jesus Quitain.

“We are now holding a final copy of an EO on the FOI… After 29 years and only 25 days of President Rodrigo Duterte, this is already a record breaking speed of a cornerstone or milestone or landmark executive order being signed,” Andanar said, as previously quoted by GMA News.

The 1987 Constitution mandates the right to information for citizens but has not been fully implemented due to the lack of any enacting legislation.

An FOI bill has been filed in every Congress since but failed to make it through the legislative mill. Andanar pointed out that it was the late Congressman and Senator Raul Roco who filed the first such FOI bill.

Although Duterte’s new EO covers only the executive branch, it is the closest to an FOI policy framework for the Philippines.

The President, who ran under a platform to fight corruption, has promised to implement FOI even via executive prerogative.

“On the first day of President Rody Duterte on June 30, we already pushed for the executive order on the Freedom of Information. There were substantive pushing and pulling additions to this executive order for a more transparent executive branch of government and there is no planned timing of signing it yesterday,” Andanar added.

The new EO grants citizens to request and gain access to public records, government papers, and data from all agencies under the executive branch, including state universities and colleges, for free and within a maximum of 15 working days.

“The person who requests for information shall write a letter to the authorized personnel that is duly assigned by the head of the agency. The head of the agency shall review the letter, and if there is no questions with the request, then the person assigned should give the information not longer than 15 days,” Andanar explained.

Public officials who fail to release such information are subject to administrative charges.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has been ordered to submit an inventory of information pertaining to national security that would be exempted from immediate public access.