THE Senate committee on public information and mass media has vowed to scrutinize more than 100 exceptions listed in the Executive Order (EO) on Freedom of Information issued by President Rodrigo Duterte to make sure that it will not be used to cover up graft and other irregularities.
Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the committee, said the issuance of an executive order on FOI is laudable but many things need to be done to effectively eradicate corruption and ensure transparency and accountability in the bureaucracy.
Poe, during the first public hearing on the proposed FOI bill, said 166 exemptions for non-disclosure is too stringent and may be subject to certain abuses.
The senator said instead of criticizing the exemptions listed by the executive department, the committee will ask all concerned parties to submit their concerns on the EO so that the panel can study these thoroughly.
“There are some exceptions in the EO that are legitimate but there are also some which I think is not needed, so we have to study them because we have to make specific mentions of it (exceptions) in the new law so that it will override the executive order,” Poe said in an interview after the committee hearing.
She noted that aside from access to information, the committee will make sure that the information that will be provided will be easy to understand.
“We will also see to it that there will be automatic uploading on websites in a format that is technologically relevant,” Poe added.
Senate Bill 159 or An Act Implementing the People’s Right to Information and the Constitutional Policies of Full Public Disclosure and Honesty in the Public Service, which was filed by Poe, seeks to allow the public access to records or information that are under the control of government.
The bill listed only 13 exceptions.
Poe sees the approval of the measure before the year ends.
The FOI bill has been the longest pending measure in Congress. It was first introduced by the late Sen. Raul Roco.
The Senate in the previous Congress approved the FOI bill sponsored by Poe but it did not reach the bicameral conference committee because the House of Representatives failed to pass its own version.