MALACAÑANG on Tuesday defended the exemptions that they specified in the executive order implementing the constitutionally-mandated Freedom of Information amid complaints that it proposed restrictions on information that are already accessible to the public.
“I think these are really the standard exceptions. Those exceptions are basically self-explanatory. There are certain items there that cannot be revealed because of confidentiality,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella told reporters in a press briefing.
Aside from matters pertaining to national security, the Palace-backed draft version of the Manual on Freedom of Information lists 166 exceptions, which includes the non-disclosure of government official’s SALN; detailed lists on how congressional funds were disbursed; and documents submitted through the Government Electronic Procurement System (GEPS).
The list also includes restrictions on information outside the executive branch, which includes: court records, including pleadings and other documents filed by litigants and SALN’s of officials in the judiciary; Executive Sessions in the House of Representatives and Senate; and Confidentiality of information acquired by Comelec officials involved in the procurement process.
Abella defended the non-disclosure of SALN’s of government officials as “safeguard” against “malicious use of information” even as the SALN is already a “public document” under Republic Act 6713 or Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
“It will be more or less as simplified as possible so that there will be no malicious misuse of the information,” he said.
Responding to criticisms of Senator Grace Poe, Malacañang vowed to look into consideration her request to strike down the “restrictive rules” on SALN.
Abella said that Poe’s concerns and suggestions will be considered in the final copy, set for release this November.
Although the FOI as an executive order is designed to be a transparency measure, the details, however, are still being worked out and clarified before its full implementation, he said.
Abella further explained that when it comes to some exemptions that includes restrictions on access to court documents and pleadings, he said the exemptions in each particular branch of the government will have its own issues, and these are part of the things being dovetailed.
“They’re working out, they’re making sure that everything dovetails so that it does not conflict with one another,” he said.
Abella said the executive secretary may see it fit to restudy the matter, and address particular situation of the agencies.