WHEN U.S. federal authorities caught the family of Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia smuggling thick wads of dollar bills into the United States in 2003, reporters covering the defense beat scrambled for documents to check out the lifestyle of top officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

So in early 2004, defense reporters filed a request for the Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of Garcia and other officers with the AFP Public Information Office and the AFP’s Office of Ethical Standards and Public Accountability (OESPA).

The SALN is a public document so the reporters thought it was just a routine request. And because the request was also submitted to the OESPA, the office tasked with upholding the highest moral standards of the AFP, they did not expect much of a problem.

But the AFP leadership closed ranks, and closed the door. Request denied.

It wasn’t the first and last time journalists were barred from obtaining information whose availability is guaranteed by the Constitution and further spelled out by the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, or Republic Act No.6713.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), for instance, has had doors repeatedly shut in its face for years now while trying to secure data it needed for its reports. Recently, it teamed up with the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) in conducting a two-week informal survey among journalists in Metro Manila and the provinces to see how other members of the media were faring with similar requests with national and local state agencies.

Read on at pcij.org

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