Duterte signs FOI order

Rodrigo Duterte is already proving a hands-on head of state. Source: Wikimedia


The new president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has signed a decree ordering freedom of information for the authorities as part of a push for transparency.

Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar said the order was a measure the president had called for since his inauguration less than a month ago.

A proposed law imposing freedom of information on government department, including congress and the courts, has been stuck in the legislature for decades.

“Only 25 days under President Rodrigo Duterte, this is already a record-breaking speed of a cornerstone or milestone or landmark executive order being signed,” Andanar said.

It will be sent to congress before it becomes law.

Ironically, Andanar added that Duterte had stopped giving interviews to journalists after clashing with reporters in June over his justification for the killing of reporters who he labelled corrupt.

“It is still the prerogative of the president if he wants to be interviewed or not,” said his spokesperson.

Duterte has promised to tackle corruption and boost transparency.

“The person who requests for information shall write a letter to the authorised personnel that is duly assigned by the head of the agency. The head of the agency shall review the letter, and if there [are] no questions with the request, then the person assigned should give the information not longer than 15 days,” Andanar said.

He said details that “put our government in danger in terms of national security” would be exempt.

Senator Grace Poe, an advocate of the freedom of information bill, said that Duterte’s order “is already indeed a milestone”.

“There are a lot of things that we need to continue with regard to the freedom of information in other branches of government but we await with much anticipation that full implementation in the executive branch,” Poe said.

“Every Filipino shall have access to information, official records, public records and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for public-development,” the order said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines announced: “This is a gesture we are sure not only media but everybody who believes [in] transparency and accountability… and democracy highly appreciates.”