FOI may uncover top secret documents

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The National Security Council (NSC) expects the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to update its 40-year-old memorandum circulars used in identifying classified documents, an NSC official said.

Lawyer Pedro Davila, the NSC legal counsel, made the disclosure during the Technical Working Group meeting aimed at consolidating 24 pending FOI bills before the House Public Information panel chaired by Rep. Jorge Almonte of Misamis Oriental.

“The Memorandum Circulars that we use on classified matters were issued way back in 1964. We see the FOI bill virtually repealing these with a provision on allowing the Executive to come up with an Executive Order that will provide new guidelines in identification of classified information and proper procedure in declassification of information,” Davila told the panel.

The FOI implements the right of the people to information on matters of public concern and the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest thru mandatory posting of wealth statement of public officials and access to information being used for decision making or project management, including transcripts and minutes of official meetings, provided that there is a legitimate request.


“The procedure on classified and declassifying documents needs to be updated. It has become very obsolete; they are no longer applicable in present day. We anticipate that the new FOI law will replace these 1964 Memorandum Circulars,” Davila added.

The Executive Orders that will replace the old Memorandum Circulars, Davila noted, should also state the period which the information remain classified, and when will such documents be deemed for mandatory declassification.

“Without the [new]Executive Order, we will have a hiatus, Davila added.
Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao, one of the authors of the FOI measure, does not see Davila’s stance as a restriction to the FOI bill.

“There is no problem with that because the FOI bills provide for creation of Executive Order if there’s information that needs to be deemed classified. We have to consider the Malacañang’s inputs to hasten the process,” Baguilat said in a separate interview.

“It won’t restrict the FOI because the Executive Order will be based on the parameters of the FOI bill that will be passed,” Baguilat added.

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