Cautious welcome of Philippine president's executive order on FOI
July 28, Manila: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in cautiously welcoming the signing of an executive order on Freedom of Information (FOI) on July 23, 2016. The IFJ and NUJP are pleased by this progress, but call on government to expand and strengthen freedom of the press and information in the Philippines.
On Saturday, July 23, Filipino President, Rodrigo Duterte, signed an Executive Order (EO) guaranteeing FOI for all government offices under the executive branch, in Davao City, in the southern Philippines. The EO marks a swift fulfilment of an election promise made by President Duterte, which was signed by three weeks after he was inaugurated and just two days before his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Although the right to information in embedded within the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the NUJP and other Filipino media have long campaigned for FOI legislation. The EO enables Filipino citizens to request information regarding official acts, transaction or decisions as well as government research data used for policy development from government agencies. However, the EO does not cover the Philippines Congress or the judiciary due to the doctrine of the separation of powers. For those two bodies to be included, the legislature would have to enact an FOI Act.
Dabet Panelo, NUJP general secretary said: “Although the bill seems better than the version of the bill that the previous administration had endorsed in Congress, we hope that any exceptions to the EO's coverage will not dilute its essence and intent. At the same time, we urge Congress to enshrine Freedom of Information as part and parcel of governance in our country through legislation.”
“We further call on government to expand and strengthen freedom of the press and of information through the following: by working to end media killings and to solve past murders, bring the perpetrators to justice and put an end to the culture of impunity that has marked the continued disregard for human life and human rights in our land; and by doing away with all laws that suppress free expression, such as the criminal libel law, and enacting measures that strengthen the same,” said NUJP.
The IFJ said: “We welcome the new EO signed by President Duterte on July 23, as a step in the right direction to legislation freedom of information the Philippines. The media in the Philippines is faced by a plethora of challenges and issues, most notably the dire culture of impunity that continues to weaken the media community across the country. Actions such as these, work to strengthen and support the media and press freedom in the Philippines.”
The Oslo Times International News Network