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Thursday, 19 January 2017 00:00

FOI talk reaches UPLB

An issue of national interest for the past years now, Freedom of Information (FOI), took center stage at UPLB through a seminar on Jan. 12 at the Institute of Plant Breeding.

Entitled “UPLB and the FOI: Information from the academia,” the seminar sought to inform UPLB officials, faculty and staff about the FOI Order and how it would affect the academe in general and the UP System in particular.

The FOI Order is formally known as Executive Order (EO) No. 02, s. 2016, or the “Operationalizing in the Executive Branch the People’s Constitutional Right to Information and the State Policies of Full Public Disclosure and Transparency in the Public Service and Providing Guidelines Therefor.”President Rodrigo Duterte signed the executive order on July 23, 2016.

Atty. Kristian Ablan, assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and guest speaker, gave an overview of EO No. 02. He defined several terms noted in the EO, explained how the EO is expected to be implemented, determined the agencies that would fall under its purview and identified the scope of the publicly accessible information that the FOI Order covers.

He said that all government agencies are required to produce two FOI manuals: one for the agency’s use and the other for public use. He also commended UP for its quick compliance with this requirement; UP, as a public university, is a government agency.

Atty. Ablan also emphasized the government’s policy of proactive disclosure, which means that involved agencies must make respective data available to the public even without the latter’s request. He used the Open Data program as well as the eFOI to emphasize this. The former, which was started during the Aquino presidency, aims to collect national government data from various agencies and centralize it into one publicly accessible website, www.data.gov.ph. The latter, on the other hand, is the online FOI platform, which functions as an alternative system to file information requests. It is still in the beta testing phase and is currently limited to 34 government agencies.

Atty. Ablan also noted the list of exceptions to the FOI Order, and the types of information that state academic institutions like UP should and should not release under EO No. 02.

Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr., in his welcome remarks delivered by Dr. Rex Demafelis, vice chancellor for research and extension, encouraged the audience to actively participate in the seminar. This way, the UPLB community would be more aware of its responsibilities articulated in the FOI Order.

After the lecture, Atty. Aladdin Dominguita, university extension specialist at the Office of the Chancellor, moderated an open forum about the topic. A number of people from the audience asked questions pertaining to information, which had previously been requested from the University; while some participants discussed their experiences in requesting research information from fellow government agencies.

Dr. Susan May Calumpang, assistant to the vice chancellor for research and extension, closed the program with a message, and reminded the audience that UPLB must be proactive in both complying with EO No. 02 and in campaigning for full freedom of information in the future. The seminar was organized by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension. (Albert Geoffred B. Peralta)