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‘Stricter’ FoI eyed

The Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media is eyeing the passage of a “stricter” version of the Freedom of Information bill before the congressional break at the end of the year.

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the panel, said she hopes the Senate can pass the bill before Christmas so it can provide more teeth to President Duterte’s executive order on the FoI. “I hope we can pass it on third (and final) reading before we go on a break in December,” Poe said.

Poe said she would push that the Senate’s version of the FoI would be adopted as it includes a provision requiring all elected and appointed government officials to allow public scrutiny of their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

Poe noted the SALN disclosure provision is missing in the Executive Order 2 that Duterte signed in July 24. “It’s important to include that in the FoI law,” she said.

She also stressed the need to revisit Memorandum Circular No. 78 of 1964 promulgating rules governing security of classified matters in government offices stressing this should not be used as a blanket authority for non-disclosure of important information.

Accordingly, Poe said executive issuances and departmental notices should not add to the exemptions of non-disclosure provided by the Constitution, law, and jurisprudence. “There must be a well-defined and efficient mechanism to declassify ‘classified’ documents,” she said. (Hannah L. Torregoza)