Freedom of Information-Program Management Office (FOI-PMO)
Best Practice Focus Area/s
Strategy, Citizens / Customers, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management
25 November 2016
This is a GBPR finalist entry
In response to the advent of technology and the need to provide Filipinos with efficient access to information mechanisms, the FOI-PMO developed the electronic Freedom of Information (eFOI) Portal (www.foi.gov.ph). The platform allows users to request government information, track their requests, and receive the information they requested online. To effectively handle the influx of requests, the portal is also designed to assist government offices in receiving, processing, and responding to online requests.
Background and Problem
On 23 July 2016, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) No. 2, s. 2016, operationalizing the Executive Branch of the People’s Constitutional Right to Information or the Freedom of Information (FOI) Program. The said EO strengthens the People’s right to information under the 1987 Constitution. It is meant to become a mechanism for the government to promote transparency and accountability in governance. On 25 November 2016, 120 days after publishing the EO, the PCOO, through the FOI-Project Management Office (FOI-PMO), launched the FOI Program and the eFOI Portal.
Before creating the eFOI portal, requests for information may be lodged in government offices by submitting a physical copy of an FOI request form. This hinders the public from filing their FOI request to government offices, especially those residing outside Metro Manila (e.g., a citizen from the Visayas cannot file an FOI request to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in Metro Manila without physically going to the office of MMDA).
Solution and Impact
The creation of the eFOI portal is our response to digital development. This portal was created to allow Filipinos to access government information online conveniently. Transparency is the program’s primary goal, so the details of the requested information, response time, and outcomes of requests made within the eFOI portal are published.
The eFOI portal started with fifteen (15) pilot agencies in 2016, namely, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Department of Transportation (DOTr), National Archives of the Philippines (NAP), Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Philippine National Police (PNP), and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Security, Scalability, and High Availability are significant factors to the success of the eFOI Platform. The eFOI Portal Technical Infrastructure balances the multiple goals of running the eFOI Platform System. It harnesses the platform of Google Cloud to provide security, reliability, consistent performance, and manageable costs. The eFOI portal can successfully operate and empower its users to further perform their duties and responsibilities.
Here are some of the challenges in the implementation of the FOI Program that were addressed by eFOI:
- The portal provides a centralized repository for all requested information on government activities, averting the risk of a fragmented approach by agencies for FOI.
- Using technology, the portal allows efficient and timely quality service from all agencies, averting the risk of duplication in agency-level efforts and budget utilized for FOI implementation.
- Performance monitoring for agencies can be used as a basis for policy, e.g., performance-based budgeting. It can be a starting point for the streamlining of government processes.
- The portal promotes demand-driven transparency and accountability, made possible through a web-based platform that simultaneously receives and tracks multiple requests.
The portal increases public participation in government processes through extended web reach. Three and a half (3 1⁄2) years into its implementation, the eFOI portal already has a total of 487 government agencies onboard, 186 out of 189 (or 98%) national government agencies, 92 out of 111 (or 83%) government-owned or-controlled corporations, 96 out of 111 (or 86%) state universities and colleges, 110 out of 520 (or 21%) local water districts, and three (3) local government units) with 31,827 led eFOI requests.
By implementing best practices, the Freedom of Information-Project Management Office (FOI-PMO) is now an accredited member of the International Conference of Information Commissioners (ICIC), a global forum for information rights. The FOI Philippines is the first member of the ICIC from Southeast Asia and the fifth from Asia.
In its three-year program implementation, FOI-PMO successfully met the primary eligibility criteria of protecting, promoting, and ensuring the respect of access to public information in the Philippines, under the leadership of former Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary and FOI Champion Jose Ruperto Martin Andanar and former Assistant Secretary and FOI Program Director Kristian R. Ablan.
The PCOO is tasked as the lead implementing agency of the FOI Program. It established the FOI PMO as the main office to oversee and monitor the FOI Program implementation in the Executive Branch.
As an instrument of change, ICIC (https://www.informationcommissioners.org) aims to be a global forum that connects different countries worldwide to become responsible for protecting and promoting access to information. It builds the capacity of its members and raises more awareness to such advocacy of sharing information, which fuels more opportunities and fosters global progress. ICIC also encourages and supports dialogue and cooperation by becoming a forum that creates a more convenient way for other countries to connect and share their different knowledge and practices. This will also help improve the transparency and accountability of governments.
As global progress is becoming collective, ICIC provides a platform to unite voices from the international community to raise awareness on the impact and effects of access to public information. This great endeavor propels the development and adoption of specific international standards on accessing public information globally, including establishing independent information commissions.
Being internationally recognized is another step for the FOI advocacy to become more than just an Executive Order; another step for our country to be a transparent nation. FOI’s primary goal is for information to be available to the nation.