(UPDATED) The new Marcos administration ordered the transfer of the Freedom of Information Project Management Office (FOI-PMO) to the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), which will be placed under the “direct supervision” of the Office of the President.

The transfer followed the issuance of Executive Order No. 2, which reorganized and renamed the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) to become the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS). 

PIA and FOI-PMO were both previously under the PCOO. 

E.O. 2 was signed by Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez on June 30, but it was made public only on July 7.

The EO seeks to strengthen PIA, the government’s main communication arm. Two other PCOO offices — Bureau of Communications Services and Good Governance Office — were also transferred to PIA. 

FOI advocate Jenina Joy Chavez of the Right to Know Right Now (R2KRN) coalition criticized the transfer. She said the transfer is tantamout to “a demolition of the station.”

“The Office has a specific mandate. It's not just information about government programs, which PIA does,” she said.

The Philippines does not have an FOI law. Transparency groups have waged a campaign that has lasted for more than a decade, but FOI bills continued to languish in Congress. 

PCOO created the FOI-PMO in September 2017 in compliance with former President Rodrigo Duterte’s own Executive Order No. 02, which mandates public access to information, official records, public records and other official documents such as a public official’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

Duterte was lauded for institutionalizing FOI in government although his order covered only the executive department. Observers also called for a better implementation of the program.

FOI-PMO was intended to oversee the implementation, monitor and evaluate compliance of all FOI programs in the executive branch. It was also tasked to provide policies, rules, procedures and regulations in implementing the program. 

Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan served as the program director. He supervised three divisions: Policy, Planning and Support Division, Compliance and Monitoring Division and Communications and Capacity Development Division. 

The FOI-PMO also managed the eFOI portal, the government’s mechanism to allow Filipinos to request for information about government transactions. 

Research showed that an average of one in four requests were denied while a majority remains pending in the portal. (READ: Duterte’s freedom of information is not so free)

Duterte has also refused to release his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. (READ: Duterte's wealth remains secret until the end of his term

The OPS, formerly PCOO, is headed by Press Secretary Rose Beatrix “Trixie” Cruz-Angeles. Her office will have eight undersecretaries including former ABS-CBN reporter Ina Reformina, People’s Journal reporter Marlon Purificacion, digital media strategist Emerald Ridao, and former TV5 reporter Dale De Vera as undersecretaries.

The Office of the Presidential Spokesperson was abolished. END


*This blog post was updated to include comments from Jenina Joy Chavez of the Right to Know Right Now coalition





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