Sereno: FOI programs in judiciary intact

MANILA — Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday said the judiciary had been implementing freedom of information programs (FOI) in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s call for setting up of FOI programs in other branches of government as a measure to further strengthen the country’s democratic institutions.

Following Tuesday’s regular en banc session of the magistrates, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the Chief Justice shares the President’s desire for greater transparency in government.

Among the measures implemented by the high court for this purpose is the release of summaries of the statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth of the justices since 2014 and fiscal and financial data like disbursements from Judiciary Development Fund and annual procurement plans which are posted in the SC website and transparency page.

She also said the SC had made accessible to the public its oral arguments via audio live streaming and it has also started posting of relevant pleadings and legal documents on cases of public concerns in its website.

Sereno also pointed out the issuance of updates on relevant and current developments through the SC PIO Twitter page, release of Bar exams results every year since 2013 and approval of new rules and procedures and guidelines to judges.

She added that the SC PIO had been conducting press briefings on Tuesdays after each session of the high court.

The Chief Justice explained that apart from the reforms already implemented, the high court is considering more measures for purposes of transparency in its affairs.

“The Court is also deliberating on a draft Rule of Access to Information About the Supreme Court pursuant to its power to promulgate rules and its power to supervise the lower courts,” Te said as he read Sereno’s statement.

In a message on the anniversary celebration of the executive department’s FOI program on Monday, Duterte said the executive branch had made great strides in providing access to relevant records, research data, documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, and decisions since he institutionalized state’s policy of full public disclosure and transparency in the public service through Executive Order No. 2.

The FOI program was launched on November 25, 2016, or four months after the President signed EO No. 2 on July 23, 2016.

I hope that both the legislative and judicial branches of government would join us in strengthening our democratic institutions by following suit and instituting measures that would allow unfettered public access to relevant information about their affairs, subject to reasonable restrictions and regulations in exceptional circumstances, Duterte said.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), the lead FOI implementing agency, led the first anniversary celebrations at the Rizal Park Hotel in Manila with the holding of the first Freedom of Information Awards Ceremony.

The awarding ceremony gave recognition to the significant contributions of government departments and attached agencies, including government-owned and/or controlled corporations (GOCCs), state universities and colleges (SUCs), and local government units (LGUs), to the development and progress of the FOI program.

In his speech, PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar said the accomplishment made by his office, the FOI team and partner-agencies as well as partner-organizations are something to be proud of.

According to him, 96 percent or 181 national government agencies have already complied with the submission of FOI manuals while 69 GOCCs and 26 SUCs also made their submissions.

With regards to FOI requests, the top agencies were the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) which had 420 requests, followed by the Department of Health with 220, the Department of Transportation with 173, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) with 153, and the PCOO with 101 requests.

In the meantime, the FOI winners per category were the DBM (department), the PSA (agency), the National Housing Authority (GOCC) and the University of the Philippines (SUC).

Source: Philippine News Agency