Frequently Asked Questions on the Freedom of Information Law

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In this digital age where there are now more ways to communicate and access information, the importance of the right of every citizen to information has become all more apparent. Indeed, we can’t deny how important communication and information technologies have become in our everyday lives. Moreover, open communication and knowledge sharing help provide us with decision-making tools and skills, facilitate community action, uphold justice and good governance, and ensure transparency of government activities, among others.

Without sufficient public knowledge of government affairs, corruption could flourish. And there can be jeopardy of human rights such as equality before the law, due process, and privacy. We must be diligent. To keep such abuses at bay and prevent any adverse impact on development, we must remain vigilant in securing our right to know what our government is doing. In order to do this, it is important to equip ourselves with the best fiber internet from a trusted internet service provider in the Philippines.

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What is the meaning of freedom of information?

Freedom of information is the principle holding that there should be no infringement by any governmental, private or public organization of the freedom of all persons to inquire, seek, receive and impart ideas and information.

In other words, freedom of information is the public’s right to have access to all kinds of recorded data. This can be governmental records, as well as news or entertainment media.

What is the right to freedom of information?

According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information through any media regardless of frontiers.

Every person has the right to freedom of information either directly or indirectly. The right to freedom of information is an issue that is currently under the discussion of some governments around the world especially in Asia. Some countries have already put into practice some laws regarding this matter while others are still working on it.

On one hand, Section 7, Article III of the Constitution guarantees the right of the people to information on matters of public concern.

Why is the freedom of information important?

Citizens will be better able to hold their elected officials responsible and participate in government processes if they have more access to information. Civil society organizations will be able to provide more relevant and accurate inputs to the participatory budget and participatory audit processes if they have access to information on government projects through open governance efforts. Furthermore, FOI will allow government investigators and public partners to track down corrupt national government agencies and public authorities.

What is Freedom of Information or FOI in the Philippines?

Freedom of Information in the Philippines (FOI) is a law that aims to allow citizens, under certain conditions, access to government records. Certainly, this is to check whether or not there has been proper expenditure of public money. Also, this is in order to see if public officials disbursed their duties.

The law makes FOI an obligation of the Philippine government under its Constitution. The passage of the enactment marked a milestone for efforts to promote transparency in governance in the Philippines.

Executive Order No. 2, series of 2016, established the FOI mechanism for the Executive Branch.

What is Executive Order No. 2 S. 2016?

This executive order enables the implementation of FOI. It puts the people’s constitutional right to information into practice within the Executive Branch. It also establishes state rules on full public disclosure and transparency in government.

In this EO, the information shall mean any records, documents, papers, reports, letters, contracts, minutes and transcripts of official meetings, maps, books, photographs, data, research materials, films, sound and video recording, magnetic or other tapes, electronic data, computer-stored data, any other like or similar data or materials recorded, stored or archived in whatever format, whether offline or online, which are made, received, or kept in or under the control and custody of any government office pursuant to law, executive order, and rules and regulations.

Citizens can submit a formal request for information held by the government through the FOI, with the exception of some sensitive and critical facts relevant to the nation’s security. This complements continuing proactive information disclosure efforts where agencies are duty-bound to publish information in the spirit of openness and transparency.

Meanwhile, various local government units (LGUs) in the country have implemented their respective FOI ordinances

What is the eFOI?

The eFOI stands for electronic Freedom of Information. The eFOI portal is the central platform for citizens and government agencies to facilitate online FOI requests. Likewise, it provides a tracking system for citizens to follow their lodged requests. Also, this platform provides statistics on all online FOI requests, the response time, and the outcomes. This website is under the government of its web content accessibility guidelines.

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Screenshot from the Freedom of Information Philippines Website

Making an FOI request

1. Who can make an FOI request?

Any Filipino citizen can make an FOI Request. As a matter of policy, individuals who are making FOI requests need to present proof of identification.

2. What information can I ask for through FOI?

Through the FOI, citizens can request information, official records, public records, and documents and papers relating to official acts, transactions, or decisions – as well as government research data used to formulate policy, regardless of its physical form or format.

FOI allows Filipino citizens to request any information about government transactions and operations, provided that it shall not put into jeopardy privacy and matters of national security. 

3. What agencies can I request information from?

Under EO 2, an FOI request can be made before all government offices under the Executive Branch, including Government-Owned and/or Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). Citizens must send their FOI requests to the specific agency of interest. And the respective receiving officer will receive it.

4. How do I make an FOI request?

Citizens can make an FOI request either through the paper-based FOI platform or the eFOI platform. The request process slightly varies depending on the used platform.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office, through its FOI Program, has provided the following steps for citizens to have smooth facilitation of FOI requests:

Paper-based FOI Platform:

a. Place your request in writing by filling out a request form and submit the form to the agency’s Receiving Officer. The person must state his/her full name and contact information, and provide a valid copy of a government-issued ID as proof of his/her identity. He/she must describe in detail the document he/she wishes to access.

b. The Receiving Officer shall validate the request and will log it accordingly on the FOI tracker or registry.

c. If deemed necessary, the Receiving Officer may clarify the request on the same day of filing. Indeed, this can include specifying the information requested, and providing other assistance needed by the Requestor.

d. The request will be forwarded to the Decision Maker for proper assessment. The Decision Maker shall check if the agency holds the information requested, if it is already accessible, or if the request is a repeat of any previous request.

e. The request shall be forwarded to the officials involved to locate the requested information.

f.  Once all relevant data or information are retrieved, officials will check if any exemptions apply, and will recommend an appropriate response to the request.

g. If necessary, the head of the agency shall provide clearance to the response.

h. The agency shall prepare the information for release, based on your desired format. It shall be sent to you depending on the receipt preference.

eFOI Platform:

Like the paper-based FOI platform, requests made through the eFOI platform will be automatically sent to the agencies concerned for immediate processing.

Similarly, a person who makes an FOI request through this platform will be required to create an eFOI account. Through this account, you will also see a dashboard of your FOI requests, and the results of your FOI requests.

In order to make an eFOI request, individuals must create/log in to his/her account:

a.  Click the Log-in button and enter the email address and password.

b.  In case the requestor is a new user, click the Sign-up button, and provide the required information.

c.  Once logged-in, the user will be directed to the Dashboard. The Dashboard contains all the requests done by the account owner.

d. Click the Make a Request button. Once clicked, the user may choose the name of the agency.

e. User will be directed to the Make a Request Page. Complete the required fields. Once sent, the request will be forwarded to the Receiving Officer of the concerned agency.

f. The same process of clarification, retrieval, and approval of release applies to the eFOI platform.

g. Once approved, the response will be posted to the user’s Dashboard.

5. How much does it cost to make an FOI request?

There are no fees associated with making or submitting an FOI request. However, the agency may charge a reasonable fee for necessary costs such as for printing, shipping, reproduction, and/or photocopying

6. What will I receive in response to an FOI request?

The person will be receiving a response either granting or denying your request. If the request is granted, you can expect to receive the documents as an attachment, through the eFOI portal, email, or be requested to collect the documents at the agency you had applied to. If the request is denied, the agency will give an explanation of the denial.

In fact, an agency’s failure to notify the requesting party of the action taken on the request within the response period will be viewed as a denial of the request. Failure to comply with its provisions may be a ground for administrative and disciplinary sanctions as provided under existing laws and regulations. 

7. How long will it take before I get a response?

The standard processing time is fifteen (15) working days.

8. Can an agency extend the processing time?

Yes. In some instances, an agency may need more time to review your request and thereby extend the processing time. Under such circumstances, an agency will inform you of an extension, which shall not be longer than twenty (20) working days.

9. Can I have my request expedited?

There is no process for expedition of requests. All requests will undergo a review equally on a case-by-case basis. And there’s a fifteen (15) working-day processing period from the time of receipt.

10. Is there a Manual for this FOI program?

The design of the People’s FOI Manual is for the general public to have a guide in making FOI requests. In fact, a People’s FOI Manual should include the following:

a. the location and contact information of the head, regional, provincial, and field offices, and other established places where the public can obtain information or submit requests;

b. the person or office responsible for receiving requests for information;

c. the procedure for the filing and processing of the request

d. the standard forms for the submission of requests and for the proper acknowledgment of requests;

e. the process for the disposition of requests;

f. the procedure for the administrative appeal of any denial for access to information; and,

g. the schedule of applicable fees.

The good thing is that you may download the People’s FOI Manual.

11. What if I am not satisfied with how the Agency handled my FOI request?

You may write an appeal letter to the person or office next higher in authority or based on the appeals mechanism published on the FOI manual of the agency within fifteen (15) calendar days from the receipt of such a response. However, the decision on the appeal shall be within thirty (30) working days by said person or office next higher in authority.

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Photo by MF3d on iStock

12. What important information do I need to know regarding privacy

Once your application had a proof of validity, the agency to which you applied will utilize the information you provided to process your application in accordance with EO 2. If you are granted access to a document by the agency and the document does not contain any personal information about you, the document will be published online in the agency’s disclosure log, along with your name and the date you applied, and, if another person, company, or body will use or benefit from the documents sought, the name of that person, company, or body.

Exercise your right to FOI via fast, reliable internet

As concerned citizens of this country, it is imperative to uphold transparency and accountability in the government. We can do this by exercising our right to freedom of information. While a great deal of government and other public sector information is available online, the importance of being able to connect to the Internet is becoming a necessity. Thus, the need for fast and reliable fiber internet connection has become significant.

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Subscribe to Streamtech for Hassle-free eFOI access

Streamtech, the most trusted internet service provider in the country today, affords households high-speed internet connections and cable TV services at a low cost. Certainly, we have the best fiber internet packages that provide fast internet connectivity. This has been possible thanks to our fiber-optic backbone link.

Certainly, through Streamtech, accessing the eFOI platform will be hassle-free. So, what are you waiting for? Subscribe to Streamtech now and enjoy upgraded internet experience and enhanced connectivity! You may also visit the Streamtech official Facebook page for more details.

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