Press Release
September 29, 2016

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's concluding remarks
FOI Hearing, Senate Session Hall

In this public hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media on various proposals to enact a Freedom of Information Law, we seek from the representatives of government agencies their comments and proposals on how to improve our bill, we're requesting that you submit it in a week.

As I have mentioned in my opening remarks, we have already unanimously passed the FOI bill in the last Congress in record time. I think that we will be able to immediately come up with a committee report and sponsor this soon.

To summarize this hearing:

  • There has to be a clear segregation of national security matters that could be rightfully disclosed and those that should be kept confidential for being highly sensitive.

  •  We heard that an individual's right to privacy is equally important as the right to information. There is a need to balance these two constitutionally protected rights, especially concerning online disclosure of sensitive medical information. Concerns were raised about identity theft that can result from a very broad application of the FOI in relation to personal information provided to the government.

  •  An inquiry was raised on how to treat biometrics data, in relation to the biometrics registration law.

  •  There was a recommendation that administrative offenses under the FOI law should constitute "gross neglect of duty".

  • There is a need not to "add" additional layers to the disclosure process.

  •  There were proposals to limit the exemptions under FOI to 10 categories as suggested by the PCOO.

  •  Agencies may need to push for 2 FOI Manuals - one for the people and one for government agencies.

  •  Emphasis was made on the possible burden that may fall on front line receiving officers once FOI is implemented

  •  There should be pro-active disclosure, such as an open data program, to complement the FOI law.

  •  We look forward to the position paper to be submitted by the BSP, SEC, DFA and other agencies.

  • It was recommended that there be a provision as regards to authentication in relation to the usability of FOI data as evidence in courts.

  •  Project-heavy agencies such as the DPWH are at the forefront of preventing corruption through FOI measures.

With this, I think it is safe to say that this should be our final public hearing for the Freedom of Information before we submit our recommendation to the plenary. This hearing is happily adjourned.

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