PCOO CHIEF: FOI PROMOTES GOV’T TRANSPARENCY
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar speaks to journalists in Bangkok, Thailand during the launch of Press Freedom caravan. (Photo courtesy of PCOO)
BANGKOK, Thailand — The Duterte administration is committed to promoting government transparency and accountability by providing the public credible, accurate and timely data, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said.
During the launch of the Press Freedom caravan here Wednesday, Andanar told journalists, including Filipinos based in Bangkok, that the government’s response to the call for transparency is the Freedom of Information (Executive Order No. 2, signed in 2016), a major program of the Duterte administration.
Andanar said the public, especially journalists, can now request information about government transactions and operations under the executive branch.
He added that the PCOO has been going around the country to improve its policies, engagement and solutions “so we can protect the welfare of our mediamen.”
“I think 98 percent of the media in the Philippines is objective when they write their stories,” Andanar said, as he emphasized that the PCOO would continue to “work more to give them a better environment so that they would continue their calling as mediamen.”
“It is not a perfect society but, should I say, press freedom in the Philippines is still the best in the entire ASEAN,” he said.
Andanar said they would also bring the FOI caravan to Hongkong, Singapore, and hopefully in Europe to inform more people about the government’s FOI bid.
While going around and informing people about the FOI program of the government looks easy, PCOO Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan, during the same event, said the challenge is how to involve all government agencies, including local government units (LGUs), to become part of it.
While EO No. 2 only covers agencies under the executive branch, other agencies have decided to support the program and these include the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit (COA), as well as several LGUs, such as Ilocos Norte and South Cotabato.
“We’re tackling the challenge by talking with local government units to pass their ordinances,” Ablan said.
The goal to include all government agencies in the FOI program is also aimed at addressing people’s thinking that the failure of one agency is the failure of the whole government.
He said most of the information being requested is “local information that national government agencies do not have.”
“That’s why we’re tackling the challenge by going to each and every government agency, convincing them (of) the merits of the FOI. And that’s why FOI is going local,” Ablan said.
“That’s our challenge. We want to address that. Hopefully, before the term of President Duterte ends, we’d be able to cover each government office,” he added.
To date, any request for information should be answered within 15 working days but agencies are given additional 10 days if the needed data is difficult to find. (PNA)