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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

House drafts FOI bill
29 December 2016 06:02:56 PM

The House committee on public information chaired by Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (Party-list, ACT Teachers) recently presented the Freedom of Information (FOI) draft substitute bill which is a consolidation of 33 bills, one resolution and one privilege speech, all seeking to strengthen the people’s right to information.

The panel’s technical working group (TWG) labored for two months to draft the FOI substitute bill. The substitute bill was initially presented by the committee during a hearing held prior to the holiday break for comments and discussions on the various sections of the measure.

Tinio said the TWG also took into consideration Executive Order No. 2 signed by President Duterte last July 23, 2016. The EO operationalized in the executive branch the people’s constitutional right to information and the State policies to full public disclosure and transparency in the public service and providing guidelines therefor.

Rep. Manuel F. Zubiri (3rd District, Bukidnon) said once enacted into law, the FOI bill could be an effective deterrent to corruption as public disclosure of all government transactions involving public interest will be mandatory, hence all public officials and employees should be covered.

The panel perused the substitute bill provision by provision and gave the committee members and gave invited resource persons from concerned agencies and people’s organizations the chance to air their comments and suggestions.

Among those present were representatives from the National Privacy Commission (NPC), National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of National Defense, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the media represented by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters ng Pilipinas (KBP), and the civic organization Right to Know Right Now Coalition (RTKRN Coalition).

Commissioner Raymond Liboro of the NPC gave proposals on how to make the bill attuned to the provisions of Republic Act 10173, or the Data Privacy Act of 2012. He said one of these is the classification of personal information as “personal data” that will encompass all sensitive personal information of individuals which are exempted from the bill’s coverage. Such information includes names of family members, especially minors, which appear on individual statements of assets and liabilities (SALN).

Liboro said the information that should be disclosed and made accessible to the public should be related to the position and execution of official function of an individual as a government official/employee.

Rep. Rodante D. Marcoleta (Party-list, Sagip) asked lawyer Eirene Aguila of the RTKRN Coalition what information the public wanted really to know. He said there should be a balance between the public’s right to information and the protection and assurance of the people’s right to privacy.

Aguila said there are some information which could be considered sensitive and that she is amenable to the reduction of these information, especially those regarding minors. The KBP also shared such view.

Executive Director Julia Bacay-Abad of the AMLC expressed support for the FOI bill but clarified their stand on certain provisions. Meanwhile, the BSP representatives wanted the banking and confidentiality rules and the provisions of the Bank Secrecy Law to be acknowledged and considered.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Leo Tito Ausan, Jr., also supported the draft substitute bill but noted the suggestion of the RTKRN Coalition on public disclosure of agreements and/or treaties entered into by the government. He said the DFA will submit its position paper on this matter as soon as possible.

The AFP and PNP representatives also supported the draft proposal but stressed they wanted national security and defense concerns to be given due importance in the bill.

Since there were more suggestions raised during the hearing, Rep. Raul V. Del Mar (1st District, Cebu City) said the recommendations of the invited guests should be submitted formally so the committee can consider them in finalizing the substitute bill.

The committee members decided to continue the deliberations after the holiday break.

The consolidated measures were House Bills 32, 63, 75, 77, 112, 120, 127, 161, 224, 237, 251, 330, 334, 463, 560, 903, 973, 1055, 1121, 1251, 1654, 1855, 1873, 2269, 2284, 2309, 2331, 2773, 2853, 3022, 3783, 3950 and 4020, and House Resolution 153 filed respectively by Reps. Raul del Mar, Karlo Alexei Nograles, Alfredo Vargas III, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr., Angelina ‘Helen’ Tan M.D., Gus Tambunting, Jose Christopher Belmonte, Harry Roque Jr., Jorge Almonte, Gabriel Bordado Jr., Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Sherwin Tugna, Winston ‘Winnie’ Castelo, Salvio Fortuno, Lawrence ‘Law’ Fortun, Magnolia Antonino, Gary Alejano, Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Sol Aragones, Teodoro Montoro, Kaka Bag-ao, Tom Villarin, Carlos Cojuangco, Luis Raymund “LRay” Villafuerte Jr., Ramon “Rav” Rocamora, Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano, Reps. Evelina Escudero, Estrellita Suansing and Jose Atienza Jr.