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PCOO eyes Creation of FOI Advisory Committee

Date: 14 February 2018; Type: Legal News; Source: Philippine News Agency

MANILA, Feb 14 (PNA) - The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said Wednesday it is eyeing the creation of a special committee to oversee the implementation of the executive branch’s Freedom of Information (FOI) program.

“We are now exploring the creation of the FOI Advisory Committee tasked to provide strategic policy direction and oversee the implementation of the FOI program,” PCOO Assistant Secretary Kristian Ablan said in a Palace briefing.

The PCOO is the lead agency in charge of the implementation of the FOI.

Ablan said the proposed FOI Advisory Committee, which was lifted from the same committee in the United States, would be composed of both government and non-government representatives.

Members of the government will include representatives from the PCOO, Department of Justice, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Information and Communications Technology, National Privacy Commission, National Archives of the Philippines, and a representative from both chambers of Congress.

Meanwhile, non-government members of the committee will be composed of representatives from the business sector, academe, civil society, and media.

Ablan also said the FOI program would be expanded to include Local Government Units (LGUs) in response to concerns that citizens have been asking for information about local government agencies from national departments.

He, meanwhile, assured that the PCOO will strengthen public access to government information and remained hopeful that the FOI bill will be passed to further promote transparency.

Ablan said he would recommend to the Office of the President (OP) the active disclosure of the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALNs) of government officials in line with the government's efforts to promote transparency.

“Our recommendation to the OP is that since SALN is one of the documents frequently asked from the OP and PCOO, that maybe it’s time to proactively disclose the SALNs after they are made official,” Ablan said.

Ablan made this assurance following several requests to view the SALN of PCOO Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, who has been under fire for joining several foreign trips.

To date, Ablan said Uson’s budget and accomplishment reports are available for viewing but her SALN remains a “pending” FOI request.

“We’ve released information on her budget and her accomplishment. For the travel expenses, it’s a pending FOI request. It’s due this month so we will be disclosing the travel expenses of the Assistant Secretary (Uson),” Ablan said.

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