5 April 2013
The first country self-assessment reports on progress toward fulfilling their Open Government Partnership commitments are surfacing, with more expected in the coming weeks.
Posted on the OGP website now are reports from two countries: the Philippines and the United States.…
23 February 2013
The Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership will only comment on national controversies in several defined “exceptional circumstances,” according to a Feb. 21 statement.
The two-page statement comes in the wake of a request that the Steering Committee “signal”…
freedom of information
Text from the freedominfo.org Global Survey: Freedom of Information and Access to Government Records Around the World, by David Banisar (updated July 2006)
The right to information was first included in the 1973 Constitution and was expanded in the 1987 Constitution. Article III, Section 7, states:
The right of the people to information of matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records and documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.(1)
Article II, Section 28 obliges government to fully disclose information of a public interest:
Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.
The Supreme Court as far back as 1948 recognized the importance of access to information and has issued a series of rulings.(2) The Court ruled in 1987 that the right could be applied directly without the need for an additional Act.(3)
There is no Freedom of Information Act per se in the Philippines but a combination of the Constitutional right and various other legal provisions makes it one of the most open countries in the region.(4)
The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees requires disclosure of public transactions and guarantees access to official information, records or documents.(5) The Act sets a policy of “full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.” Officials must act on a request within 15 working days from receipt of the request.
The implementing regulations of the law require that the head of each body “establish measures and standards that will ensure transparency and openness.”(6)
The rules create exemptions for information and documents related to national security and foreign affairs, information that would cause imminent harm to an individual, privileged information or information exempted by another law, drafts or decisions, orders, rulings, policy, decisions, memoranda, and information that would intrude into personal privacy, impede law enforcement and cause financial instability.
The Code also requires that public officials disclose information about their assets, liabilities, net worth and businesses interests. The information is available to the public but use for commercial purposes or “contrary to morals or public policy” is prohibited.
Complaints against public officials and employees who fail to act on an information request can be filed with the Civil Service Commission or the Office of the Ombudsman. The courts can hear cases once administrative remedies have been exhausted.
A comparative review by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance in 2002 found that the Philippines, even without a formal FOI law, was one of the most open in the region.(7) However, there are still many problems in accessing information, especially by non-media.(8) These include a lack of a uniform procedure to obtain information from bodies, a “fluid” scope of right due to changing government policies, limited sanctions, inadequate remedies to require disclosure, and a lack of a culture of transparency in government bodies.(9)
In 2002, civil society groups formed the Access to Information Network to press for the adoption of a FOI law. In the past several Congresses, numerous bills have been introduced but thus far none have been approved.(10)
Article 229 of the Penal Code prohibits public officers from releasing “any secret” or from “wrongfully deliver papers or copies of papers” with a maximum penalty of jail and a fine of 2,000 pesos if the release “caused serious damage to the public interest.”(11)
2004 freedominfo.org Global Survey Results – Philippines
1. Constitution of Philippines, http://www.chanrobles.com/philsupremelaw1.htm
2. Abelardo Subido, Editor, The Manila Post, petitioner, vs. Roman Ozeta, Secretary of Justice, and Mariano Villanueva, Register of Deeds of City of Manila, respondents. G.R. No. L-1631. 27 February 1948. http://www.aer.ph/images/stories/projects/id/cases/subido.pdf. For an overview of constitutional cases, see Nepomuceno A. Malaluan, Democracy, Development and Access to Official Information in the Philippines, Action for Economic Reforms,April 2001. http://www.aer.ph/images/stories/projects/id/access.pdf
3. Legaspi v. Civil Service Commission, 150 SCRA 530, 29 May 1987. http://www.aer.ph/images/stories/projects/id/cases/legaspi.pdf
4. See Yvonne Chua, The Philippines: A Liberal Information Regime even without an Information Law. http://www.freedominfo.org/features/20030117.htm
5. Republic Act 6713 of 1987. http://www.csc.gov.ph/RA6713.html
6. Rules Implementing the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. http://www.csc.gov.ph/RA6713b.html
7. Coronel, The Right to Know: Access to Information in Southeast Asia (PCIJ 2001).
8. See Article 19, Freedom of Expression and the Media, Baseline Study – Philippines, 2005. http://www.article19.org/pdfs/publications/philippines-baseline-study.pdf
9. Access to Information Network, Position Paper on Bills on People’s Access to Official Information, 2 February 2005.
10. See Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Widening Access to Information. http://www.i-site.ph/Focus/access-info.html
11. Revised Penal Code, Act No 3815.
18 February 2013
A Philippines official has replied to allegations that the Aquino administration failed to live up to its commitments by not making sure a freedom of information bill passed, saying that other priorities took precedence.
The government has taken other steps…
13 February 2013
A subcommittee of the Open Government Partnership is expected this week to discuss whether the OGP should signal its disappointment with the Philippines government for failing to pass freedom of information legislation.
The request from FOI advocates poses a challenge…
6 February 2013
Philippines President Benigno Aquino was disingenuous in his promise of support for freedom of information legislation, according to strongly worded statement from the broadly based Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition.
“Mag-Ingat sa Hindi Tunay” (Beware of Fakes), is the…
31 January 2013
Time appears to be running out for freedom of information legislation in the Philippines in the absence of support from President Benigno Aquino and with only three days left in this session of Congress.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda on Jan.…
28 January 2013
The Philippines House Jan. 28 took up the long-delayed freedom of information bill, but with only five days left in the congressional session and still without presidential help.
Promisingly, considering that quorum problems are common during the final days of a session, a…
25 January 2013
Support from President Benigno Aquino appears to be the only hope for passage of a freedom of information in the Philippines, so supporters of the bill hope to meet with him during the week of Jan. 28.
With the House…
23 January 2013
Leading sponsors of the freedom of information bill now languishing before the Philippines House have appealed to President Benigno Aquino to throw a lifeline to the bill.
Another day passed without House action Jan. 23, leaving just six session days…
22 January 2013
A procedural move on an unrelated matter has delayed action by the Philippines House on a freedom of information bill with only seven session days to go.
The unexpected delay with little time to spare was one of several plot…
31 December 2012
Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, Jr., has said that the freedom of information bill will be one of the priority bills when the Philippines House of Representatives on Jan. 21 convenes for what will only be an nine-day session.
21 December 2012
The freedom of information bill was not presented on the floor of the Philippines House during the closing days of the 2012 session, leaving another step to be taken in nine days available for possible action early next year.
17 December 2012
By Toby McIntosh
The Philippines House won’t take up a freedom of information bill until next year, when there will be only a two-week window for a vote.
Senate action is completed now, but the bill’s biggest hurdle historically has…
11 December 2012
Both the Philippines House and the Senate have taken additional steps toward passing a freedom of information bill, but one of the biggest hurdles, passage by the full House, remains ahead, with the timing uncertain.
On Dec. 11, the same…
3 December 2012
In a move called “unneccesary” and ”disturbing” by fellow legislators, Rep. Ben Evardone has said a procedural requirement means his Committee on Public Information must meet again on the freedom of information bill.
He set Dec. 11 as the day…
30 November 2012
With the Philippines House poised to debate a freedom of information bill soon, its supporters are expected to propose an alternative to the controversial right-to-reply provision.
A long debate is expected in the 285-member House of Representatives, according to Senior…
27 November 2012
A Philippines House committee Nov. 27 voted 17-3, with one abstention, to approve a long-stalled freedom of information bill.
Final passage, however, remains uncertain because of time pressures. Approval by the full House this year would require action during the…
16 November 2012
The Philippines’ House committee chairman who has delayed action on freedom of information legislation is promising it will be the only topic for a Nov. 27 meeting.
Rep. Ben Evardone Nov. 16 said the FOI bill “will be our only…
13 November 2012
A committee of the Philippines House Nov. 13 failed to pass the much-delayed freedom of information bill prompting supporters to declare the bill not only dead, but “murdered.”
Committee Chairman Ben Evardone forced the adjournment of the inconclusive meeting with…
9 November 2012
Tuesday, Nov. 13, is looming as a potentially big day for freedom of information legislation in the Philippines.
A House committee, after much delay, is scheduled consider the bill on that day.
A leading supporter on the House said he…
12 October 2012
The schedule for considering freedom of information in the Philippines House of Representatives has slipped again, prompted new fears that it will not be passed this year.
Nov. 13 has been set as the date for a House committee meeting,…
7 September 2012
To my fellow Representatives: Let us not create demons in our own minds as we have full control of the final language of the law.
That’s a Sept. 4 tweet from the Philippines’ House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III,…
22 August 2012
The Right to Know Right Now Coalition in the Philippines has asked House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte to intervene and get the freedom of information bill out of committee.
The letter from the network of 150 media and civil society organizations…
15 August 2012
By the Right to Know, Right Now Coalition
The following editorial ran in many paper in the Philippines July 15.
In 1986 at EDSA, the first people power revolt ended 21 years of a government so dark and so…
6 August 2012
Advocates for passage of a freedom of information law in the Philippines have begun an advertising blitz targeting a key House committee chairman, Rep. Ben Evardone, who is widely viewed as the major impediment to passing the bill.
3 August 2012
Philippines Deputy House Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III said Aug. 3 that he is optimistic that the controversial Freedom of Information bill will passed by December, but the bill still is bottled up in a House committee.
The bill remains…
3 August 2012
By Nepo Malaluan
Malaluan is a Trustee at the Action for Economic Reforms and Co-Director of the Institute for Freedom of Information. He is also Co-Convenor of the Right to Know. Right Now! Coalition, a network of more than 150…
23 July 2012
Philippines President Benigno Aquino did not mention the Freedom of Information bill in his annual State of the Nation address July 23, disheartening FOI supporters.
The pro-FOI coalition had urged him to draw attention to the legislation, which has passed…
8 June 2012
The chairman of the committee in the Philippines House that will handle the freedom of information bill said June 5 that he will be trying to come up with an “acceptable formula.”
Rep. Ben Evardone, public information committee chairman, was…
3 June 2012
Despite near unanimous support for a freedom of information bill in the Philippines Senate, the bill’s prospects remain uncertain in the House.
Twenty-two out of 23 senators have endorsed the committee report on a FOI bill by Sen. Gregorio B.…
17 February 2012
A leader in the Philippines House of Representatives has indicated he plans to schedule hearings on freedom of information in late February en route to summertime enactment.
The comment by Deputy House Speaker and Quezon Representative Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada came…
6 February 2012
Now that Philippine President Benigno Aquino has submitted his freedom of information bill, proposals to expand it have surfaced and critics are calling it too timid.
FOI advocates had known the bill would fall below their expectations, but decided to compromise in order…
3 February 2012
Philippines President Benigno Aquino Feb. 2 sent to Congress his administration’s long awaited version of the freedom of information bill.
“Earlier today, we formally submitted to our coalition partners in the House of Representatives a substitute Freedom of Information Bill,…
20 January 2012
The disclosure of a World Bank document indicating possible misuse of Bank funds in the Philippines has raised a controversy and raised questions about the handling of such Bank documents.
The Bank’s aide memoire details “ineligible expenditures” to support a…
13 January 2012
The version of freedom of information legislation supported by Philippines President Benigno Aquino is being called the People’s Ownership of Government Information bill, or POGI, which is Filipino slang for handsome, and supporters continue to be hopeful it will pass,…
6 January 2012
President Benigno Aquino has approved his version of freedom of information legislation, altering it to drop a proposal for an information commission.
The president’s recommendation for congressional approval was heralded as yet another sign of potential progress toward enactment. The elimination…
8 December 2011
The Aquino administration has produced a long-awaited proposal for a freedom of information bill in the Philippines which has been praised by pro-FOI advocates and appears likely to pass.
The issuance of a draft law came after months during which…
7 November 2011
Philippines President Benigno Aquino Nov. 4 continued to voice doubts for months about freedom of information legislation, saying in a YouTube interview that “the devil is in the details.”
He continued, “When does it help the interests of the people…
20 September 2011
The Open Government Partnership commitment by the Philippines government on pending freedom of legislation is general and President Benigno Aquino, who addressed an OGP event in New York Sept. 20, but did not mention the pending bill.
The Phlippines national action plan statement…
14 September 2011
Eight more countries have indicated their intention to join the Open Government Partnership – Azerbaijan, Chile, Colombia, Ghana, Jordan, Montenegro, Tanzania and Turkey.
OGP membership now stands at 36. The OGP website lists 28 countries that have agreed to participate…
2 September 2011
Nine countries plus the initial core group of eight have pledged to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a U.S. official told FreedomInfo.org Sept. 2, bringing total membership to 17.
The nine countries that have sent in “letters of intent”…
25 August 2011
Efforts by the eight conveners of the Open Government Partnership to draft their national “action plans” are slowly emerging, according to a FreedomInfo.org survey.
However, in most countries the development of a plan does not appear to involve the wide…
17 August 2011
Philippines President Benigno Aquino has “specific questions and concerns” about freedom of information legislation, according to a spokesman in comments after the Aquino administration bypassed another opportunity to make the bill a priority.
The inaction brought a round of condemnations…
25 July 2011
Philippine President Benigno Aquino did not mention freedom of information in his July 25 State of the Union address, but several days later said his proosal was almost ready.
In a speech July 28, however, Aquino said he had ordered…
22 July 2011
Philippine President Benigno Aquino still has not indicated whether he will support a freedom of information bill developed by a working group of his ministers, according to sources consulted by FreedomInfo.org and media reports.
Aquino “will likely not mention the…
4 May 2011
The chances of a freedom of information in the Philippines improved this week as aides to President Benigno Aquino said that a FOI bill will be presented to the House of Representatives.
The Palace bill has not yet been made…
2 May 2011
There are a few signs of more transparency since President Benigno Aquino came to power nearly a year ago, but in most parts of the government “a predilection for opaqueness lingers and more barriers to access have been imposed,” according…
1 March 2011
The Aquino administration has created an inter-agency team to draft its own freedom of information bill, a move that the pro-FOI coalition said “could simply throw a monkey wrench” into the process.
At a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda…
18 February 2011
A top leader of the Philippine House of Representatives said this week that an effort will be made to bring a bill up Feb. 22.
The statement by Deputy Speaker and Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III comes despite the decision…
7 February 2011
New Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has left the Freedom of Information bill off his short list of legislative goals, despite having indicated during the campaign that it would be a priority.
At a briefing Feb. 7, presidential spokesperson Edwin…
26 November 2010
After a long post-election silence about freedom of information legislation, Philippine President Benigno Aquno has suggested various reservations.
Aquino’s support for such legislation was not at issue, but calls for him to make it a priority legislation matter went unheeded.…
24 November 2010
A bi-partisan parliamentary working group has been formed to “further polish” a freedom of information bill for the Philippines, according to a news report on ABS-CBNNews.com.
Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada was quoted as saying that the group “hopes to…
5 November 2010
Senate Minority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano Nov. 5 called on the new Aquino administration to act on the freedom of information bill.
“I’m a bit disappointed with the way the Palace is treating the FOI bill,” Cayetano said during…
9 September 2010
Legislative hearings may begin soon on a freedom of information law for the Philippines after efforts to pass it were thwarted in June.
According to a report by Christian V. Esguerra in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “The ill-fated Freedom of Information…
12 July 2010
A coalition of more than 160 civil society groups and personalities has urged the adoption of a Freedom of Information law, according to media reports.
“The Right to Know Right Now! Coalition also wants President Benigno Aquino III to…
2 July 2010
Legislation to create a Freedom of Information law has been refilled in the Philippine Congress.“This time it will not be killed,” said Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tanada III, quoted in an article by in the Manila Bulletin..
A Freedom of…
4 June 2010
By Toby McIntosh
The House of Representatives in the Philippines on June 4 was unable to pass a Freedom of Information Act because not enough congressmen showed up. The failure to obtain a quorum on the last day of the congressional session appears to end the high hopes of activists, although several news accounts noted that a …
2 June 2010
By Toby McIntosh
Advocates of a Freedom on Information Law for the Philippines are looking at June 4 as the last chance for getting it passed in this session of Congress. Supporters had hoped for quick House approval May 31, but were stymied by House Speaker Prospero Nograles, who is delaying action on any legislative matters pending …
28 May 2010
The seeming excellent prospects for passage of a Freedom of Information Act in the Philippines are being serious threatened as the Congress tries to sort out the election results…
18 January 2008
The Global Transparency Initiative has expressed concern about the decision by they International Monetary Fund to postponement review of the IMF Transparency Policy, originally scheduled for 2008.
GTI wrote to IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn Dec. 17 after learning from…
11 November 2003
SunStar Network (Philippines) reports that court employees, instead of chanting protest lines, sang old-time favorites and danced to boogey tunes as they demanded transparency in the disbursement of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF).
Wearing red shirts or red armbands, the…
17 January 2003
A case study published today on Freedominfo.org reveals that the Philippines, despite its lack of actual freedom of information legislation, is amongst the most open democracies in Southeast Asia. In a 2001 survey on the accessibility to the public of…
17 January 2003
Yvonne T. Chua has been the training director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) since 1995. As journalism trainer, she has trained scores of journalists in the Philippines and abroad, including Indonesia, Cambodia and Nepal. In 1999, she…