166 Exemptions Suggested For Philippines FOI EO

29 August 2016

The Philippines government has proposed 166 exemptions to its new freedom of information executive order.

The 11 pages of exemptions are contained in an Aug. 22 draft of the FOI People’s Manual. (See text as pdf in Rappler article.)

Separately, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Congress may not be able to pass the long-delayed FOI bill this year because lawmakers will be preoccupied with passing next year’s national budget, according to The Manila Standard.

President Rodrigo Duterte on July 23 issued a FOI executive order (EO 2), indicating at the time that the exemptions would follow. (See Freedominfo.org report.)

The now proposed exemptions list includes many typical FOI exemptions, some rather tightly drawn, such as the one on deliberative process. Exempt would be “records of minutes and advice given and opinion expressed during decision-making or policy formulation.”

Another clause would inhibit the release of the Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of government officials, access to which was a main driver for the campaign for a FOI law.

The draft manual states would restrict access to the SALNs if the purpose of the request is “contrary to morals or public policy,” or for any commercial purpose other than that by a news agency.

Senator Grace Poe expressed hope that the government will reconsider removing the “restrictive rules” on the release of the statements, The Inquirer reported.

She said most of the other exemptions parallel those in her FOI legislation. Also included in the restrictions are law enforcement, trade secrets, bank records, and certain court records.

Potentially controversial is an exemption that states: “Government officials cannot be compelled to prepare lists and detailed reports on how congressional funds were disbursed.” Poe said such documents “are patently public documents and of paramount public concern.”

Duterte Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the FOI exemptions are not yet final and are still being reviewed.

The manual includes 158 “exceptions to FOI” and six more listed as “other exceptions.”

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