At the beginning of his term, President Duterte promised the citizenry the Freedom of Information Order, which gives normal citizens the right to demand information on public documents in aid of transparency. Today, the government has made good on that promise and has launched the eFOI portal where regular Juans like us can ask for documents and information from the few government agencies that are currently part of the FOI order.
There are a few things we can’t ask for, as explained by assistant secretary for policy and legislative affairs Kris Ablan, which includes information covered by executive privilege; those relating to national security, defense or international relations; those concerning law enforcement and protection of public and personal safety; and those affecting privacy like cases involving minors and victims of crimes.
“You may recall, there was news going around a few months ago that 166 exceptions would render the FOI EO meaningless or useless… But the truth of the matter is, the list that was talked about was just an inventory of different exceptions… since then, we adopted the best practice of other countries which categorize and group the several exceptions into nine major categories,” Ablan said.
Since the FOI is simply an order from the president and not a law as of yet, not all government agencies are covered. The portal is still in its test stage, and only six departments and nine agencies are part of the portal. These are: Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Budget and Management (DBM), Finance (DOF), Justice (DOJ), Health (DOH) and Transportation (DOTr); the Presidential Communications Office, Philippine Statistics Authority, National Archives of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Health Insurance Corp., Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, Presidential Commission on Good Government, Office of the Solicitor General and Public Attorney’s Office.