House panel approves FOI bill with 8 exceptions
MANILA, Philippines – The House committee on public information unanimously approved the bill seeking the full public disclosure of all government offices on Wednesday, February 15.
The House panel gave its approval to the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which would mandate that all government offices across the 3 branches "make their records available to the public insofar as they are related to any government contract or transaction."
"The policy of full public disclosure is not fully fleshed out in our current laws. The FOI bill seeks to address that gap," said committee chairperson and ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio in a statement. (READ: Freedom of Information law: Will it pass under Duterte?)
The House FOI bill, however, also lists 8 exceptions. Access to information would be granted unless:
- The information is authorized to be kept secret under the guidelines of an executive order, particularly those involving national security and foreign affairs that may affect the Philippines' ongoing bilateral or multilateral negotiations and other diplomatic relations
- Investigatory records of law enforcement agencies that may interfere with enforcement proceedings, deprive a person the right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication, invade privacy, disclose the identity of a confidential source
- Any testimony, report, document, or discussion obtained during an executive session at the House of Representatives and the Senate
- Personal information of a natural person in the public or private sector that may invade his or her privacy
- Trade secrets and commercial or financial information or intellectual property obtained from a natural or juridical party other than the requesting party
- Privileged communication in legal proceedings
- Information "exempted from disclosure by the Constitution or law"
- Information that, when prematurely disclosed, may lead to fraud, manipulation or other unlawful acts or schemes involving financial instruments, as well as impede the effective implementation of a proposed official action
The application of these exceptions would be determined by the head of the government agency concerned or any official designated by him or her.
With the FOI bill's approval at the committee level, it is now set for 2nd reading during the House plenary session.
The FOI bill is one of the priority measures of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In July 2016, Duterte signed an executive order mandating full public disclosure of all offices under the executive branch.
Read a copy of the FOI bill version as passed by the House committee on public information below: