E.O. on Freedom of Information a welcome move, but FOI legislation still needed

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The AlterMidya, a national network of independent and alternative media outfits, welcomes Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s signing today of an executive order (EO) implementing the Freedom of Information (FOI). The EO is an important step in promoting transparency and accountability in government as well as in the exercise of press freedom.

However, the EO will cover only departments and line agencies under the executive branch. Congress still needs to enact an FOI law to cover transactions and records in all three branches of government.

Moreover, the Department of Justice will provide a list of exceptions in the FOI coverage. The question now is how long will the list of exceptions be. If too long, the list may restrict rather than expand access to information.

If crafted and implemented well, a Freedom of Information Act will enhance and strengthen democracy. Without accessible information from all branches of government that they are tasked to monitor, journalists cannot fulfill their “fourth estate” responsibility. At the same time, neither can citizens access the information needed in demanding accountability across the public sector.

An FOI bill will further empower Filipinos to seek and disseminate information, participate in policy-making, scrutinize policies, and act towards society’s good. We encourage the incoming Congress to immediately legislate the FOI.

Reference: Prof. Luis V. Teodoro, National Chairperson

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