University of the Philippines Los Baños
Thursday, 03 August 2017 15:06

Asec. Ablan explains FOI to UPLB records personnel

Asec Ablan

Photo courtesy of Records Management Office


“What’s the difference between President Rodrigo Duterte’s Freedom of Information (FOI) and the past status quo on asking information?”

This was the question that Atty. Kristian R. Ablan raised as he began his special lecture entitled “FOI: its impacts and demands on records and information management in academe” on July 25 at the CAS Auditorium.

The lecture of Atty. Ablan, assistant secretary for policy and legislative affairs of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, brought 130 UPLB staff together who wanted to know how the FOI will affect their work.

“The only difference is that the President just gave a minimum standard applicable to all agencies: you have to respond to a request for information within 15 working days,” Atty. Ablan revealed. However, he reminded UPLB to not wait for 15 days if the information being requested can be released earlier. FOI, he added, provides for an extension of up to 20 days, only if the information “is very difficult to retrieve” and “needs to be processed.”

The country’s policy on FOI is Executive Order (EO) No. 02, or “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 Duterte signed it on July 23, 2016.

Atty. Ablan admitted that FOI is still undergoing improvement and that as an EO, it only applies to the executive branch of the government, including state colleges and universities like UPLB.

He reiterated that each government agency has unique FOI needs; that is why President Duterte, according to Atty. Ablan, requires all government offices to come up with their own FOI manual. “There are small agencies, there are large agencies, and we can’t impose one process flow,” he explained.

“Since UP has not finalized it (FOI manual), as long as you contact the person requesting within 15 working days, we fully respect your internal processes,” he said.

Atty. Ablan expounded on some of the most important provisions of EO No. 02, including its requirements and exceptions. “The general rule is if the document in your office’s possession is considered public record and it is requested from you, you are obliged to disclose that information,” he reminded. “Of course, for every general rule, there are exceptions,” he quickly added.

In his lecture, Atty. Ablan articulated the nine exceptions in releasing information under FOI. Some of those that are applicable to UPLB include information that is covered by executive privilege, records of proceedings that are confidential based on existing law, and information that involves privacy of persons.

He cited Republic Acts 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) and 10173 (The Data Privacy Act of 2012), as among the laws that supersede information requests that may violate a person’s privacy and confidentiality. He also gave tips on how to release government workers’ documents, such as the Personal Data Sheet and the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, without revealing confidential and unnecessary information.

Atty. Ablan also reminded the audience of the difference between information being requested under FOI and the Anti-Red Tape Act (ARTA). “Under ARTA, you are given five working days to respond to a request for information, which is considered as a task under your day-to-day business,” he said.


Photo courtesy of Records Management Office


Also present during the lecture were Dr. Crisanto A. Dorado, vice chancellor for administration, and Apolonia L. Talatala, chief administrative officer of the Records Management Office (RMO) and president of the Philippine Records Management Association, Inc. (PRMA)-UPLB Chapter, the respective office and organization that spearheaded the lecture.

In his welcome remarks, Dr. Dorado referred to the participants as “the gatekeepers of information in the University who are at the forefront of transparency in government service through FOI.” During the open forum that followed the lecture, Chief Talatala reiterated to the audience that RMO’s standard operating procedures on releasing information remains, until the UP System finalizes relevant guidelines pursuant to FOI.


Photo courtesy of Records Management Office

Six months earlier, Atty. Ablan delivered his first talk about FOI in UPLB among University administrators and academic staff. (Mark Jayson E. Gloria)