Philippine leader signs freedom of information order

Media and watchdog groups had been demanding the reform, the first national freedom of information order, for years.

Philippine leader signs freedom of information order

World Bulletin / News Desk

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a landmark freedom of information order to allow the public full access to government records for the first time, his spokesman said Sunday, in a move welcomed by transparency advocates.

The executive order, providing for "full public disclosure and transparency" by government agencies, was signed by the firebrand leader on Saturday, his spokesman Martin Andanar said, just 25 days after taking office.

"This is record-breaking speed for a landmark executive order being signed," Andanar told reporters.

Press and anti-corruption groups have long campaigned for freedom of information to combat endemic corruption blighting the impoverished nation.

"This is a gesture we are sure not only media but everybody who believes (in) transparency and accountability... and democracy highly appreciates," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement.

The order, covering all central government offices, requires them to make public records, meetings, research and any information requested by a member of the public, except for matters affecting national security, Andanar said.

The order does not cover the legislature and judiciary. Local governments are "encouraged to observe and be guided by this order," copies of the document said.

A proposed law imposing freedom of information procedures on public bodies nationwide, including Congress and the courts, has remained stuck in the legislature for years.

Senator Grace Poe, an advocate of the freedom of information bill, said that Duterte's move "is already indeed a milestone".

"There are a lot of things that we need to continue with regard to the freedom of information in other branches of government but we await with much anticipation that full implementation in the executive branch," she said in a statement.

Andanar said Duterte, who took office in June, respected the independence of Congress and denied the new order was intended to pressure lawmakers into passing the freedom of information law.

Despite this move towards transparency, Andanar conceded that Duterte had stopped giving interviews to the media after clashing with journalists last month over his justification for the murder of reporters who he branded as corrupt.

"It is still the prerogative of the president if he wants to be interviewed or not," the spokesman said.

Duterte has previously vowed to fight corruption but his main focus has been a war on crime that has seen the killing of hundreds of suspected drug pushers since he was elected on May 9.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Temmuz 2016, 15:17