Have you tried invoking the FOI?
Signed on July 23, 2016, Executive Order No. 2 grants the public access to official and/or public records and data, provided that these will not affect national security and personal privacy. Guidelines in securing documents are quite simple: send an official communication with the description and purpose of your request, your complete contact information, and a valid proof of identification then wait for a maximum of 15 working days for the concerned government agency’s response (i.e., acceptance or denial of request).
On November 25 last year, the process was made even simpler with the launch of the eFOI portal (foi.gov.ph). Eliminating the need to identify the specific unit to contact, the eFOI platform provides for a centralized system where one sends details of his request to any of the 64 participating government agencies. If the request is approved, the assigned FOI Officer directs the communication to the concerned unit within the specified agency. The online process also makes tracking easier—once registered, the person requesting may just wait for updates (e.g., acceptance, denial/grant) through e-mail.
From the eFOI interface, the public may also view existing requests, their statuses, and the concerned offices’ replies. With this, requesting parties who might be looking for the same information could get an idea on the likelihood of an approval or denial. In the case of the latter, alternative actions are also suggested by the responding FOI Officer for everybody’s reference.
Figure 1. Four easy steps to accessing information from the Executive Branch: write, submit, wait, and follow
Last November 11, 2016, we tried these four steps to check what has been done so far in the third year of the Yolanda Recovery and Rehabilitation Program (YRRP). Since the eFOI was not yet up, we sent via e-mail a request letter to the Monitoring and Evaluation arm of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Pursuant to the FOI, the Yolanda Project Monitoring Office replied before December 5. Presented below are Quarter 4 (2016) updates from the different government agencies involved in the YRRP:
Figure 2. Among the government agencies involved, only DSWD has reached its targets last year. On the other hand, NHA has been particularly lagging, reporting less than 20 percent completion. Updates on the resettlement program have been provided in a Senate hearing.
The first quarter of the year is nearing conclusion, and further updates are being prepared. It is interesting to give FOI another try.
Infographics by Jelorene S Vitaliano