FOI is not needed if leaders are honest and earnest

freedom-of-information-law philstar

Neediness or need? [Photo credit: Philippine Star]

Let me raise your eyebrows. I’m going to tell you something that you most likely don’t agree with right now. All I can ask is that you not shut down your mind before I’ve had a chance to present my case.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) is unnecessary. The information we want exists now, but we don’t know how to get to it. The demand for FOI, more than anything, is a reflection of the general lack of trust we hold for leaders. We can correct that if we ourselves assume accountability for electing an honest and earnest government, and if we organize the way information is requested.

It took me some time to sift through the matter. Only a few months ago, I was one of the voices criticizing the Aquino Administration for not getting FOI passed. Now I think we should not burden the Philippines with another law that will sit on the shelf confusing people and serving as fodder for various legal challenges that plug up the courts and agencies.

Instead, I’d suggest:

Just solve the problem.

And accept that we are a part of the problem. We need to accept accountability for GETTING the information we need. Rather than demand that it be delivered to us on a silver platter. Wrapped in ribbons and bows with a dainty chocolate bar on the pillow.

If I read his public comments correctly, President Aquino has three basic issues with regard to FOI. These are presented in my words, not those of the President:

  1. FOI may force him to divulge secrets that are, in his view, best kept secret to properly defend the nation.
  2. Government is fully capable of providing information without a law mandating it, which is what his “Transparency” program is all about.
  3. Government agencies will not be able to do productive work if staff are busy trying to satisfy a flood of poorly defined requests for information.

I think these are legitimate concerns.

I’m not sure that those requesting information have a legitimate case that they deserve to have government working full time on the off chance that someone may come up with a wayward question they want answered.

I mean, do we really have journalistic players here who are interested in the facts? Who are digging and probing for information and insight? If so, why are we getting so little of that? Why don’t we know of the status of infrastructure projects? Why don’t we have a sense of Manila on the move, building to meet the demands of an economy exploding with growth? Why do we . . . through our journalists . . . only see lines and congestion and complaint?

Why don’t we have any idea of the numbers of constructive, innovative projects underway at DOST, or how NEDA is working hard to extend the development horizon of the Philippines forward with long range plans? Or how financially strong the various cities are? Or how much in fees the LTO generates each year, in relation to expenses? Why does it seem like an information desert, and the only thing happening is personal conflict?

When the data are there. Now.

But no one’s looking for it. No one is thinking of solving problems, of presenting a detailed, thoughtful picture.

Mass media editors and producers don’t want their people out scrounging up data on this or that because they don’t want to pay them to do the legwork, to put in the three days it takes to do a well-researched article. No. They want one article a day, and make it sizzle.

Media . . . the people generally demanding FOI . . . want OUR GOVERNMENT to do the scrounging around, every day, and have the information ready on that silver platter, with bows and chocolates, so the reporters can get it if they want it. On demand.

FOI to me has come to represent the hollow populist demand of a set of petulant people who don’t know what information they want and don’t know what is available and don’t want to invest much to hunt it down. But they want to have whatever they may want produced on-the-spot when they demand it. No matter what it is.

Children, children. We are all children.

I rather think most Filipino journalists are needy, spoiled children of no inquisitive mindset or inclination to investigate anything. They just want quick and dirty quotes and enough information to splatter across the article like pepper on the omelette. Not all. But most.

Have you prowled the halls of government agencies lately looking for good data? Have you looked to see what is there? Transparency is one of the hidden achievements of the Aquino Administration. In 2010, if you dug around, you were likely to get diddly squat. Nothing. Oh, there were amateurish puff pieces on the agency heads and glowing language of mission statements. But you got diddly squat when looking for data.  Now there are gold nuggets out there, or even rich veins of gold, at BSP and DBM, in particular. I was disappointed in what I found at Finance and NEDA seems to have pulled some information OUT of the web site. But, wow, there’s a whole world of data out there.

I came to this realization when I decided to do an article on fees, or the amounts agencies charge for their services. I figured LTO scrapes up a lot of “non-tax” revenue and wanted to know how much. What about other agencies?

Well, friends, here are the departments generating the most non-tax revenue based on DMB’s projection for 2016:

  1. Finance: 73.1 billion
  2. Energy: 36.9 billion
  3. Justice: 9.4 billion
  4. Foreign affairs: 7.0 billion
  5. Labor and Employment: 2.8 billion
  6. Environment and Natural Resources: 2.1 billion
  7. Transportation and Communication: 2.0 billion
  8. Interior and Local Governments: 1.2 billion

Total non-tax revenue is expected to be 146 billion pesos this year.

And here are the detailed tables showing expected trends and fees by source and department:

And here is a compilation of knowledge about the financial performance of the nation that will make you an expert, compared to most journalists or people demanding FOI:

Do you want to know the FACTS rather than popular speculation about the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)? Here you go:

In addition, we have economic and financial data, demographic, social, economic and other information is being collected by the Philippine Statistics Authority. Literacy. Unemployment. Population. Agricultural performance. A WEALTH of information.

Do you want to know what Executive is doing? Do a search in “The Official Gazette”. Want to know how the Supreme Court justices argued on this case or that? It’s there, under the heading of “jurisprudence”. Senate bills? House membership? It’s there.

What information is NOT there?

  • Defense secrets.
  • Preliminary discussions/studies that ought not be published until finalized.
  • Agency operating plans are typically not there and that is a huge omission (transparency is required only for financial data); so there is more work to do. It would be nice to see candor as to what they see the main goals and barriers to success. (Be forthright with us, eh? Prove that you understand the challenges.)
  • Answers to one-off, strange and unusual requests are not there.

Are leaders responsive to the press? Of course, to a point. They are busy people, but they know that their job requires providing information to citizens directly or via the media. Most have press people or assistants to prioritize the questions and provide the answers.

Why do we need a law to mandate that they provide what they are fully willing to provide, within reason?

Now, if a newspaper editor thinks “reason” means meeting his deadline for publication tomorrow morning, we have to consider . . . as shareholders in government operations and productivity . . . whether or not we want our employees jerked around so some tabloidian writer can pretend he did his homework.

I personally do not. I believe government officials are more than willing to provide information. But they shouldn’t have to write the journalist’s story for him, or do the data dredging that the journalist should have done before posing an inane question.

Here’s my two-pronged suggestion in place of FOI:

  1. Journalists should form a media clearing house staffed with their own paid experts who know government data and resources inside out. Their job is to gather information or line up contacts in government for one-off information requests. Develop rules for sharing information: the requesting journalist has a 3, 6, 12, or 24 hour window for “first right of use” for output from the clearing house, the length determined by criteria the journalists mutually establish. Thereafter, the information is open to all media outlets. In other words, let the data USERS assume accountability for improving the quality of information they receive rather than requiring the government to set up a huge data processing industry that tries to anticipate all needs media outlets may have. And so they do not have to respond to a swarm of similar or duplicate requests coming from multiple sources.
  2. Second, government should fund a “Citizen’s Information Ombudsman”, a small agency dedicated to responding to citizen requests for information by routing them to the proper agency, and responsible for guiding agencies on how to make their web sites more meaningful.

Rather than getting all emotionally involved over FOI, pointing fingers and demanding satisfaction, we, ourselves can assure good information by:

  1. Electing honest, earnest leaders
  2. Requesting information in a way that does not expect government officials to do our journalistic work, and does not burden government workers with a flood of duplicate or “fishing” information requests.

We should expect government officials to be accountable for providing information. And an earnest government will do that.

And we should expect more of ourselves in how we search for it.


133 Responses to “FOI is not needed if leaders are honest and earnest”
  1. Joe, I think the “Citizen Ombudsman” Agency is an excellent idea. But with several functions:

    1) to function as an aggregator of information. Present everything in a nicely summarized way, with links to the original sources of information. Put it on the web to make things easier, not everybody has the time or patience, so give them a little bit of pre-digested, accurate summaries.

    2) to act as a central clearing house for questions and complaints. Possibly with regional offices, possibly even in LGUs. There is a similar office in the Bavarian Interior Ministry. If citizens feel their local officials are playing games, they can complain there – I know a lady who works there.

    3) to function as an information and citizen’s education office. Teach people about how the government works. Many are woefully ignorant. Germany has this: Its task is now to promote understanding of political issues, strengthen awareness for democracy and willingness to participate in political processes amongst the citizen. Furthermore a committee of 22 members of the Bundestag is responsible for monitoring the effectiveness and political neutrality of the bpb. – I once got a free brochure on the German Constitution from their Bonn office, but only because the Constitution happened to be our subject in Senior High School, German K-13 system. But what I learned stuck somehow – even the social studies where we learned to deal with statistics well.

    On the citizen side, real citizen’s groups should act in a more structured way as well, not just nitpick on mistakes while missing the big picture. I am going to write an article on that.

  2. karl garcia says:

    First,there must be trust.
    Or should it be transparency that comes first?

    • Joe America says:

      Transparency is important to building trust. To that point, the Aquino administration warrants commendation for at least starting down that path. Like infrastructure, there is much more to do.

  3. Jean says:

    While I agree there is no “Need” for the FOI, I believe that having it in place is not as frivolous as you may want me to think.

    Yes, we are children. We are a society that enjoys convenience. Why go through the leg work, when you can have someone do it for you? A lazy man’s attitude for sure but not always I should think.

    Take me for example, I do not think that I am lazy, more like I am ignorant. For whatever reason, I want to know more about a certain subject, I often don’t know where the right places are to begin looking. On the off chance I stumble on the right materials by accident, I find myself groping when I am not familiar with the jargon. I also might be put off balance by other sources that are contradictory in nature. It helps immensely when a subject matter “expert” is on hand to help me digest the unfamiliar data. This is one of the reasons, I visit here. I am always amazed at how the regular commentors contribute information from sources I did not even think existed.

    Aside from that, the FOI seems to me like a good idea because I would have less reason to doubt the veracity of the material that is made available. As it stands now, when I review publicly accessible material, a significant part of me can’t help but think, this is what they want me to read. I wonder if it everything I should be reading.

    qualified implementation and clear regulations in enacting the FOI will address your concerns, would it not joe?

    • Joe America says:

      What is the goal? Good information for citizens so they perform as a check and balance and a force for good governance. The intermediary today is tabloid media or social media. Mandating that government make information available will not correct that basic flaw in how information gets passed around. Biased journalistic organizations will hunt for the data they want. People will continue to not look for data that is there because they are watching their boxing matches or TV dramas. I’m just skeptical that mandating information will help. Yet it will require a lot of energy and cost.

  4. josephivo says:

    FOI should be extended, not cancelled.

    1- Google (as Alphabet) just surpassed Apple as the largest corporation. Their main asset is information, indicating the value of information. The distribution of and access to information seems to be even more askew than for capital. Freedom and free are close, something should be done to improve the access to information so that the distribution improves. What information is relevant for Google (Facebook, Amazon…) and why? What information is relevant for rent-seekers? What information is relevant for hackers? This analysis should educate us on the value of information. The government has a task in leveling the playing field. FOI should be part of it.

    2- Follow the money. To fight corruption information on money flows are essential. The government is shoving around trillions. The access to clear, detailed information on how OUR money is spent is essential, for every expense from conception to the final audit.

    3- Whistle blowers. What is classified, what is not? FOI is needed to sharply design types of information and to describe the consequences of revealing it. Whistle blowers have to know the risk they take in advance.

    4- Reagan: “Trust but verify”. Verification is the ultimate pat on the shoulder: “What you do is important, that is why I want to follow it up in person” FOI is on the verify side, telling all civil servants how important they are. Educate the people how they can “verify”, express their appreciation.

    • Joe America says:

      1. I’m not arguing for less information, but for more of it, delivered in a way that makes it powerful. I have come to the conclusion that there are way too many nit-picking, outdated laws in the Philippines and it is creating an industry that jams up the courts and makes progress like wading through a snake infested swamp. Simplicity. Good information. Not bureaucratic rats nests.
      2. Have you visited the DBM web site? What information, specifically do you seek that is not there?
      3. I’m skeptical that FOI will stop crime at all. Changing laws to get rid of bank secrecy is more important. The laws that De Lima is proposing to build better investigative powers will help. A bunch of agencies throwing data on the web site? Lots of places for crooks to do their work. PDAF was raided in broad daylight. There is a big gap between the idealistic vision you cite and actually reporting information.
      4. See point 1. I’m not arguing for less information, but more. The ideas you suggest are good ones, and the organization I proposed (Consumer information advocacy) can do those things.

      • The DPWH has before and after the project pictures that its engineers use.

        I believe that this should be required for all projects and I believe this should be in a website for everyone to see.

        • Joe America says:

          Excellent idea. I believe that either of the “info users” organizations I have suggested could make that a priority for DPWH. Passing a law to make the information available is not needed. We can’t do laws for everything. Some of it has to be earnest, reasoned work.

          • Can’t help but compare to What chempo said about how they do things in SG. A lot of the laws we want can actually be done at the executive level as an executive decision.

            • A lot of things are not delegated for lack of trust – and because abuse of discretion was something common in the past and even now.

              This is an old habit – the Spanish colonial state was there for people to make money out of it. Governor-generals, the church and everybody raced to get the all-important “boletas” that gave them the right to storage space in the galleons that went between Manila and Acapulco for 250 years or so. The position of village scribe was BOUGHT – a historian said the assumption was that the village scribe could earn back the money he spent, Prinicipalia helped the Spanish get forced labor and other taxes out of their own people.

              In the 1980s an old DFA employee told me “tayo ang nasa puwesto, pakinabangan natin”.

              There are some who are now thinking of the whole. But a minority. Possibly even among supporters of Mar Roxas. Most think of their group “pakinabang”. Their group winning.

              Zero sum gamers who want their piece of the cake. Cake eaters. Not cake growers.

        • edgar lores says:

          That’s a good start… but

          In these days of Photoshop, are the pictures verified?

          Are the project sites verified that everything is up to standards? Pre, during and post?

          • karl garcia says:

            Then the thing MRP hates will be proven to be necessary,Testimonials or affidavits.
            If not acceptable,we should increase the budget of DOJ,because it seems that the NBI would have its hands full in authenticating documents.

            • Open Text – my former employer – has solutions for that kind of stuff, but not only them. Digital signatures on documents to prevent faking them. The most crucial part of the whole thing is however the scanning process, you need controls to prevent fraud.

              There are even https links to documents that self-destruct – they only are valid for about one hour, it can even be set up on the server how long they are valid, so that confidential documents cannot be sent around as hyperlinks to anyone… I know the expert for that.

              If one wants access it has to be well controlled, not everything is everybody’s business. There is personal confidentiality which must be protected at some level, and then also confidential defense stuff. There are industrial secrets as well, the Chinese are watching.

          • Yes but this depends on the engineers, coa auditors, monitoring teams whose job it is to monitor these things.

      • josephivo says:

        1. I’m arguing that apart from government information a lot more information exist and that “information monopolies” are developing. Opposite there is privacy and transparency. FOI is an opportunity to make information more democratic. Of course all should be lean and mean and SIMPLICITY written capital letters.

        2. Follow the money
        2.1 What is Chempo in the MRT blog complaining of?
        2.2 How comes the HR omission was not possible to detect without the original proposal?
        2.3 took a test, went to DBM, clicked at random:

        CY 2014
        GRAND TOTAL 322,432,513
        One item “special purpose funds”:321,354,504
        Then as the sum of detailed charges by department: Bank charges: 576, 518
        commitment fees: 9 and other finaicial charges: 501,482

        0.1% is explained in great detail, 99.9% is a lumps sum figure, not very transparent. Where is the full budget book?

        3. Aggree, but my point is that the definitions today of what is restricted information and what not are unclear. FOI could clarify. Today one suspects that vague definitions are on purpose to open possibilities for future lawyers.

        4. I liked when my boss checked what I did (when I thought I did a good job). I’m convinced good civil servants are the same, but their bosses are the public. The FOI should support this approach.

        • Joe America says:

          1. A law mandating information reporting is high control, low trust, and rats nest. It cannot be simplicity. It cannot be simplicity to mandate that 37 cabinet agencies start reporting . . . what, exactly?
          2. You cause me to want to break the “audience” for information down into groups. (a) The masa, served by journalists. (b) The complainers who are upset with this service or that (MRT riders; people with cars who can’t get license plates, licenses or stickers); advocates. (c) Politicians making a case (investigative hearings). (d) Academics and idealists who see a better way (e.g. you).
          (a) Lousy journalism, lousy information. FOI does nto correct that. My proposal does.
          (b) What information do they want that they don’t have? All they know, and want to know, is its all screwed up. Fix it. It isn’t an informational issue.
          (c) Politicians have not passed FOI. They don’t really want it. It’s an open book they can’t control. Their media friends don’t like Right of Reply.
          (d) The idealism has to get translated into something pragmatic.
          2 Better to address MRT by good investigative work, not information pushed out into the public arena. The full budget book will never be there. It is in the LGU’s and agencies. Depending on what the issue is, you may be able to track it down. You want government to gather data on every possible issue and report it at DBM?
          3. Any definition would bring in lawyers. Drawing lines as to what is restricted is impossible, as it is time and case driven. I say it is secret, Snowden says it is not. There will always be arguments. You can’t legislate the lines, I think.
          4. Yes, in an honest and earnest government, there would be a wealth of good, practical information reported, because the managers would want it and it is easy to put it on a web site. I’d say work on better people rather than telling bad people what to report. Good people, and the information flow will be robust.

    • edgar lores says:

      I would like to qualify my answer.

      I am not anti-FOI. It would be nice-to-have. No, I will say it is a must-have.

      But we should be aware of its limits, and we should not expect it to be a panacea against corruption, malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance.

      And we should be aware of the resources it will require in manpower, procedures, hardware, software, data capture, data imaging and data integration.

      The ability of being able to trace “every expense from conception to the final audit” is ideal.

      But consider the document requirements of just one project for that ideal to be achieved: draft project proposal overview, minutes of meetings, proposal amendments, and final project proposal. Then detail design requirements, minutes of meetings, requirement amendments, and final detail requirements. Then project costing. Then requests for bids. Evaluation of bids. Selection of contractor. Then release of funds. Project implementation initiation. Project implementation monitoring. Progress reports. Project changes. Project implementation engineering audit. Project implementation cost audit.

      Ideally, every proposal, amendment, decision, report, check, voucher, invoice will have to be imaged — and all of these will have to be identified by one common key across several government offices — executive, legislature, government department, COA, NGOs, private contractor. This requires a central database that stores all the data ideally situated in COA, or a central node links to all government offices. Ideally, the data from the outside — bidders, contractors, subcontractors — will be required to be submitted to the government and digitized.

      The data will be in all imaginable forms – text, graphs, charts, spreadsheets, static and dynamic visuals, pre-printed forms, drawings, blueprints, etc.

      If one remembers the Napoles methodology where her associates created fake supporting documents, these documents should ideally be digitized too — for verification. If these were done and the document randomly audited, her scam should never have succeeded. It took a whistleblower to reveal the truth.

      But part of JoeAm’s point is: the auditing of Napoles supporting documents should have been done, FOI or no FOI.

      • karl garcia says:


      • Ha, we are almost entering my native area… not Bikol. My professional native area of document management, my specialty being incoming invoice verification in corporations.

        Getting a system that perfect is a lifetime job for teams of experts. iGovPhil by DOST has NARDIS – a records management project for the Philippine government.

        Some of my former colleagues at Open Text (a Canadian firm which bought out our old German electronic archiving company IXOS) did projects for social security GOCCs. Some did projects for Swiss banks – where access AND confidentiality were paramount.

        Just getting the access for incoming invoices and their supporting documents – purchase requisitions, purchase orders, approval processes, goods receipts – working properly is a VERY hard job. I earn my money with this. Connecting all the data and the documents supporting the data – scanned in electronically – in order to have full access, making sure only the right people have permissions, making sure management can have full reporting.

        Transparency can lead to amazing effects – if used judiciously and properly. Information interpreted out of context can lead to the wrong kind of blame games we see right now in the Philippine political setting. Getting it to the stakeholders is even harder – not many companies have supplier portals where suppliers can check the status of their incoming invoice by themselves, find out which department head, purchasing department clerk or accounting clerk is sitting on it for how many days – for good reasons, because they might not be able to work at all. Nordic countries tend to have it – but they are high-trust cultures with an enormous sense of fairness. A Swedish Premier once went on leave for six months to have his depression cured and was open about it – can you imagine that in the Philippines? One cried after the Utoya massacre – can you imagine that in the Philippines?

        The bottom line is finally an honest culture – and a culture that corrects mistakes and punishes wrongdoings, but does not go witch-hunting, Spanish Inquisition and Aztec human sacrifice all at the same time like the Philippines tends to do. That isn’t there yet.

  5. edgar lores says:


    1. Problem: One suspects that Senator BR has been diverting part of his pork barrel funds into his pocket.

    2. Assumptions:

    2.1. One is an accredited journalist.
    2.2. FOI is law.
    2.3. Government offices are mandated to respond to FOI requests. The response may be general or specific.
    2.4. Some offices may be computerized; others not.
    2.5. The computers of the different offices are not linked and there is no central database

    3. Mission: Prove the suspicion using FOI.

    3.1. Enumerate all the FOI requests necessary.

    3.2. Specify the request, the target office, the results (form and content) from the target office.

    3.3. A subsequent FOI request must be firmly and logically based on the preceding request.

    4. Good luck.

    • If only all Filipinos were enumerators like you, Edgar. If only just a few were transcendental like you, and if only most would not mistake you for an esoteric like my friend Parekoy.

      Because the effect of FOI would be social media squared or exponentialized – a feeding frenzy on irrelevant details, without structure. Witch hunts galore, Spanish Inquisition revived in the Philippines by political groups, instead of looking for solutions or big picture.

      • edgar lores says:

        I think it is our IT background that enables us to see the intricacies of FOI.

        I have stated this before, but I think the popular concept of FOI is to see it as a form of Google query, where response time is in milliseconds.

        Just the detail you mention of a “feeding frenzy” would have IT experts scratching their heads assuming there is/are front FOI offices were requests are lodged. There are issues in the classification of requests, volume considerations, duplicate requests considerations, queuing considerations, direction-to-which office considerations, request tracking considerations, response time considerations.

        If there is no front FOI office, but just a desk in each government department, the same considerations apply, but the requestor is merely given piecemeal data/info, assuming the data/info is within other considerations of complexity, availability, confidentiality, security, etc.

        • The iGovPhil project : is just in the process of handling the basic infrastructure needed to computerize government INSIDE… it is not ready for OUTSIDE.

          Government Internet backbone is ready, Records Management (NARMIS) is in progress from what I gather, don’t know about electronic payment but there is information there. FormsGen sounds interesting, electronic forms maybe? NGDC- Govt. Data Center…

          But they could do a better job of summarizing work in progress, giving a status on each, if even we need time to understand what is going on, then how about the layman? But wait, this could be a good article to write in my blog. Because it is a very important project.

    • Joe America says:

      Or, alternatively, empower DOJ to track bank records on a court order.

      I suppose that is the point, isn’t it? Why are we looking for the information in the first place? To catch crooks? To allow journalists and whistle blowers to catch crooks? To judge the efficacy of this project or that? To understand priorities and judge them? To examine results in order to assist in planning?

      An earnest, honest government will do these things. And show us the track record, the achievements, the problems remaining, and how they will be addressed.

      • Joe America says:

        Hahaha, and I have to laugh at the absurdity. Demand FOI, and elect Binay to the presidency. 🙂 🙂 🙂

        • josephivo says:

          It are “and” conditions, not “or” conditions. And be able to check the bank accounts of suspects, and elect trustworthy presidents, and foresee a legal framework to request information an where my money went.

          Double (and triple) stitched holds better.

          Question. Why do bills similar to FOI exist in most developed countries? Why are they recommended by the World Bank and the like?

          • There is a posting on that at Raissa’s:

            Swedish-style FOI I think is not going to work at the Filipino level of political maturity. But there are other variants which are less harmful, Germany does NOT have the full FOI that Sweden has. I wonder how the Swiss do it, in support of their very direct democracy.

          • Joe America says:

            Yes, it is not either, or. But if the goal is honesty in government, there are a lot of more important priorities than mandating information about . . . about . . . about what, exactly?

            I presume that bills exist so that governments are forthright in providing information requested by the public and to reduce the incidence of theft or mismanagement.

            • Just to share a bit more of how I have seen Germans (and Bavarians) handle things:

              1) Bavaria has referenda since after the war. One of its leading politicians was an exile to Switzerland in WW2 and learned from those often very weird but excellent people. Any citizen or group may petition for a referendum. A quorum of citizen signatories is needed for a petition to become a real referendum. The petition must be constitutional of course. The decisions of a referendum become law and are binding for 10 years. Examples:

              1a) no new building in Munich may be taller than the Cathedral of Our Dear Lady. I voted against this petition, which the super-conservatives both left and right put forward. But then again, I love this city with its modernity – and its preserved tradition and silhouette.

              1b) the third runway for the Munich airport was disapproved by citizens. I also voted against because I am for progress. Well, the people who were for the runway wanted to make Munich a major transit hub to the South and East, which it partly already is… and to outdo Frankfurt, which is run by Fraport, yes the ones who built NAIA. Well in this case I am like the people of Davao who want to be better than Manila and Cebu. I admit that.

              1c) smoking ban in all public closed spaces. I can confirm that the majority of the crowd that smoked or smokes was in pubs and did not wake up on time or was too lazy to make it to the 6 p.m. deadline for voting – I was among them. No need even to register as a voter, as every resident is covered by mandatory residence registration (like Philippine sedula which I have found out still exists) and national ID and even is invited. Now I am happy that the more responsible citizens of Bavaria – it was a statewide referendum – won the vote. No smoking in pubs helped me get off drinking, because without a cigarette it isn’t so nice.

              2) All public projects are subject to public hearings and there is always an information campaign to the public, including mail adresses and stuff. To increase citizen buy-in.

              3) The Munich district I live in: Ludwigsvorstadt-Isarvorstadt, a mix of the old bourgeouis Ludwigsvorstadt (yes, the King Ludwig who built the original that was copied as the castle in Disneyland built that new city or Vorstadt for the rich business people) and the old poor Isarvorstadt (yes, the poor used to live near rivers and were subject to flooding, not anymore now) – has a town hall meeting every few months just a few blocks from my place. I admit I am too lazy to attend, but at some point I will – I do read the agenda and the minutes on the Internet from time to time. Neighborhood stuff that is interesting will be reported on and there is a Q&A with the administration and the politicians involved.

              4) The mayor of Munich has a personal time – four hours every three months, participants are determined by lottery – for concerned citizens. Of course there are many places where citizens can complain if they feel wronged. There are citizen’s groups for nearly everything. There was a show “Jetzt Red I” – in the earthy Bavarian dialect that means “Now I’m talking” where people could place their concerns and discuss with the public. Not like Duterte’s self-promoting “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa”, but the people themselves. Politicians faced the people, as part of the audience not as the main talkers, in that show which I watched a few times. Helped me learned the dialect I used on our Chinese troll.

              5) Political parties have groups at all levels. My mother was in the state committee of the Berlin Christian Democrats. That is why I know the little she told me about the airport and its issues. When she got older she retreated to the district committee – their job was more to assess local issues – sidewalks, public parks and their state, local crime issues – and define the common stand of the CDU in the district council towards the other parties. My brother was in the state committee of the Young Christian Democrats – his way into politics was via a Catholic Boy Scout group – but never told much or at that point I didn’t care yet. Later he worked as the aide of a Christian Democratic Bundestag (Federal Diet) politician. His job was answering the requests of the people who were asking their Congressman, I mean their parliamentary representative, about stuff. Like in the USA, German citizens write to the politicians they vote – Americans like to write to their Congressmen.

              Now this is a lot of food for thought. Have fun chewing it is raw. Might cook it up later.

              The point being – it takes both government and citizens. It takes local and national teams.

              • Joe America says:

                I’m enjoying your “thinking out loud”, or at the typewriter, here and at your new blog. This all flows easily from earlier work done by others here dealing with our changing tech, sociological groundings, economics (austerity), climate change and moral values. Social media are free flow, waves of popularity working for and against one another, rolling through the seas of conversation. Old journalistic forms are becoming archaic as we watch (paper with typed words on them), 2 channels of TV, plastic disks with grooves making music or even tapes. How can we shape the conversation, the news and insights constructively? We can so leave the need for FOI behind if we structure our “journalism” as a part of the social media and drive government to report . . . because it is in their best interest to do so.

                Your blog, which accompanies this one nicely, is:

              • Yep, I am an aggregator in many ways, putting things together inspired by many other inputs. Whether it is the stuff here or even the annoying sand at GRP (sand is needed for oysters to produce pearls) or the stuff at Raissa’s – it all contributes. Even those who insult me are indirect inspirations, if only by goading my pride in a positive way – to regain face the Japanese way, which is not to fight back but work harder and move up higher…

                I mentioned DAANG MAKULIT – the persistent, annoying path – in that very blog, and you, Karl, Parekoy, Grimwald and even myself as its followers. We all contribute in our ways.

                Now a science fiction author wrote a story named “Aristotle and the Gun” where his character goes back in time to meet Aristotle – and change his thoughts to change the world. He says Aristotle was just a sponge, rehashing and summarizing the ideas he heard at the agora, writing them down in a simplified manner. Now if I am that kind of popular philosopher and simplifier, fine with me. I like being a catalyst for more discussions, even if I am annoying at times. Might be that the Poe program with the 3Ks – which I answered with my 5Ks – was even indirectly inspired by my Maslow article. But I don’t want to be presumptous. The fact is that our blogs are like the correspondence – and the public answers to one another – that writers had before. John Locke may not have written his treatises on government without Patriarcha which deeply annoyed him. Without John Locke, Jefferson may just have continued being an English gentleman, and there may have been no Declaration of Independence, no US Constitution. We never know.

                The thing that happens in Aristotle and the Gun is that the time traveller shocks Aristotle by firing a gun at him in anger. Aristotle writes a deeply conservative tract rescinding all of his former writings. Europe never develops the way it did. He comes back to New York to find it ruled by Native Americans. He becomes an adviser to the Sachem of Paumanok – the old name of Manhattan, sachem was the name of Native American chieftains. He advises him to use cavalry against the Mengwe (mentioned in James Fenimore Cooper) – and at the end of his life writes the sachem what really happened, why he is the ruler.

                The point being, a butterfly can cause a storm. Small changes can cause big ones. There is also a beautiful movie on that called Timecop. Anyway let’s see how the growing national discussion goes. The present election IMHO is just a good catalyst for all of it.

                In fact we can place the blame directly on Juana for suggesting to me that I use Reader’s Digest as an inspiration, taking me off my all too erudite high horse. Thank you Katniss..

              • Joe America says:

                Ahahahaha, well, thanks to Juana and congratulations to you. Onward with our discussions . . .

      • edgar lores says:

        In Oz, I believe the tax office does not have direct access to bank accounts, but banks are mandated to submit interest earned data to the tax office.

        When I file my income tax returns, some portions are pre-filled: interest income, share dividends and medicare claims.

        The social welfare office would have a detailed picture of my assets and income.

        • Bill in Oz says:

          Sorry Edgar..But the ATO is allowed by law to access bank accounts and do data matching. So can ‘Centrelink’ which is the Dpt of Social Security ( now renamed “Human Services “)
          But all this information is exempt from the Australian Freedom of Information laws.

          • edgar lores says:

            Bill, thanks. My initial impression was that it is Centrelink that does the data matching and not the tax office. Centrelink needs to do this because of the calculation of welfare benefits as they are means-tested.

            The tax office just needs to know income from employer/business statements, bank statements, and share statements. It should not care what one has in bank accounts; and this can be approximated anyway.

            I have googled the tax office data matching, and it seems it has to do with foreign banks and offshore accounts. I am not certain whether local banks are targeted. But your are right, account numbers and year-end balances are recorded.

            What I find interesting is that the data matching program considers data not only from banks, but debit/credit cards, foreign investments board, immigration, vehicle registrations, real properties, share transactions, royalties, online transactions, business payment systems, and government grants and payments.

            I wonder why the Philippines tax office cannot do this with respect to bank accounts. The starting premise, of course, is that all bank accounts must belong to real persons, whether human or juridical.

            And if tax office can data match against all the other protocols, that would be really something.

            • Bill in Oz says:

              Edgar you have just demonstrated what can be done without FOI….A huge amount..Well done..I wonder if anyone among us can do something similar with the Philippines taxation department ..Karl ? Chempo ? Joe ?

              I am too busy right now on another job …

    • Bill in Oz says:

      Edgar your last 2 comments are soooooo real. And so well presented logically and clearly.. FOI could so easly turn into a deep gooey sticky swamp with every government project bogged down it never gets completed or the funds for the project are wasted on FOI compliance among other things..he he he.

    • josephivo says:

      2.3 Don’t you have to motivate your request? If the information is refused it might take you some time to go to the court, appeal, SC and before some practice is build up in those courts.

      Can’t shareholders in a company also request information? If you are a small fish they will not move unless they can refer to ready available information, if you are majority shareholder the situation will be different. I expect that going to court will too cumbersome for little fishes.

      To free up some communication experts and a little more orientation towards the “bosses” might be a good thing. The fear that hiding information is not always guaranteed might make some more prudent in their dealings.

      • josephivo says:

        10 years ago the information systems from DAR were totally useless. All in the hand a few who protected them as if it were the most precious, confidential figures of the nation (To hide their incompetence and/or exploited by the corrupt?) On top all donors wanted reporting in their own formats, so everything had to be done in double, definitions were mixed, figures meaningless, impossible to compare. For us as donors it was easy, our figures were always correct as by definition (and by our arrogance). Knowing that they might have to report on the request of outsiders would have given management the impulse to have a closer look what their accountants were doing (instead of only assuring that their share of the loot was not smaller than that of the others).

        What could be gained with FOI as it will work preventive is a multiple of what you describe as cost.

        • edgar lores says:

          “What could be gained with FOI as it will work preventive is a multiple of what you describe as cost.”

          This is the heart of the issue: prevention. I agree.

          Looking at the three reasons JoeAm has given to say that FOI is unnecessary:

          1. Possible divulgement of state secrets. This is a weak argument. The bill establishes in detail what kinds of info can be released under FOI.

          2. Government is already transparent. The government’s transparency program may not have the level of detail required as made clear by your posting of Feb 2 at 5:26 pm and my posting of the same day at 8:31 pm.

          3. Diversion from productive work. This is also a weak argument. It has to be understood that FOI will require additional manpower and other resources for implementation. From my recollection of reading it, the bill foresees this and mandates, to a certain extent, the proper allocation of resources.

          The second reason is by are the strongest. Just be prepared for the cost and the level of commitment necessary for the law to work. Just don’t expect magic.

          I have a sense that the actual passage of the bill, more than its actual workings, may contribute to an atmosphere of openness that will prevent corruption. This may be the magical part.

          In context, I think FOI should be seen as one measure among other measures — such as those listed by Chempo — to fight corruption.

      • I know people who worked as the IT background people at a shareholder’s meeting of a large German corporation. They were there to research in case minority shareholders came with some unpleasant questions, so that the board could come up with answers.

        In Germany there are worker’s councils. Their representatives sit in the company board. They are however compelled by law not to divulge confidential company information. But they have the important function of summarizing stuff for the workers who come and ask, making sure worker’s interests are not unduly damaged by corporate decisions – but even here there can be corruption, there was a major scandal in the VW worker’s council once.

        There is always this fine balance between trust and control. If everybody is as dishonest as many Filipinos are, you never end checking and micromanaging. In fact most checking in the Philippines is about damaging others, or making sure they get a piece of the action.

        Some FOI activists are also just people who want to have power, their own share…

        Just like many revolutionaries are power-hungry – I was one, and I was no exception. But revolutions always eat their own children – even the American one did but not so much, the payback time came later with the Civil War. Evolving the mindset is more helpful.

  6. Chivas says:

    “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. ” – Col. Jessep

    Moreover, another problem is when you get the information, how can you cross-reference all information you get? How are you really sure that what you are seeing is true and legit document?

    • karl garcia says:

      You can’t handle the Truth! 😄

      • Chivas says:

        I was concerned about defense documents. These proponents of FOI bills are sort of loose with the fact that they are dang important, even clues and potential patterns leading to defense decisions has to be confidential.

        • karl garcia says:

          Yes,I can sense that.
          That is why,when I saw the name Jesssep.
          Lieutenant Kaffee: Colonel Jessep! Did you order the “code red?!!”

          Judge Randolph: You don’t have to answer that question.

          Jessep: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?

          Lieutenant Kaffee: I think I’m entitled to them.

          Jessep: You want answers?!

          Lieutenant Kaffee: I want the truth!

          Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

          • karl garcia says:

            mamsapano hearing proved that.
            Pressuring Generals to answer need to know info,all in aid of whatever.

            maybe they need hearing aids,instead of hearings in aid of humiliation.

    • Joe America says:

      A few good men, Jack Nicholson.

      Good questions.

  7. Bill in Oz says:

    This is perhaps off topic but it is also an open, non political interview with former Australian prime minister John Howard ( 1996 -2007 ) Freedom of information !!
    The interview is about why he proposed and passed gun legislation in 1996. Since that legislation there has been no gun massacre in Australia. A wonderful interview with a very conservative politician.

    • Bill in Oz says:

      I have now just finished listening to this interview ( via pod cast ) It is an excellent example of transparent government…Working hard to achieve something quite noble…I say this as an Australian who never voted for this Prime minister..But his integrity is an object lesson for all politicians everywhere…

  8. karl garcia says:

    On laws.
    Before,I complain of thousands of bills filed and passing just 100 or 200 .
    Now, I realized the error of my analysis and opinion.
    congress must make a general cleaning of out dated laws,repeal what has to be repealed.
    ok no charter change yet, if there is may be only on the mode of constitutional ammendments to make it just like any other legislation.
    rewrite some voluminous laws of legal gobbledygook.

    transparency begets trust.If we are worried that a monster or a reptile will be the next president,Then FOI is not the solution.

    trust comelec,trust pnp and afp trust your candidate if you have a god trust your god, then trust your self.

  9. Bill in Oz says:

    Joe I want to comment directly now on FOI..Australia has had FOI since the 1980’s..And I have never needed to use it..Most information is available if looked for..My take is that it sort of ‘wants’ to be ‘known’ no matter what the owners of the information decide….Information blackouts often become very ‘sievy’ after a little while. And ‘practicing’ looking for info improves the hit rate and the capacity to screen out the junk

    The web & Google have made this all so much easier. here…I get the feeling from your article that it is much the same in the Philippines.

    • Joe America says:

      There is a wealth of info available in the Philippines and a dearth of journalists reporting it objectively. I don’t know what a law is going to do, exactly. I suggest if we want something, we (journalists) ask for it before writing a law demanding that it be provided every day of the week for any reason at any time.

  10. karl garcia says:

    Let the Survey bodies have a survey on having a National ID and the removal of the bank secrecy.
    Then let us see if they will still demand for FOI.

    • There is practically no more bank secrecy in Germany. The tax office can have a look anytime for investigative purposes. They can even shut down your account if you don’t pay your taxes – or even your quarterly advance payments – on time to prevent running away.

      The German secret service even had agents bribe Swiss bank employees to give them data on tax evaders. The tax inspectors who ordered the investigation have arrest warrants open for them the moment they enter Switzerland. The bank employees went to jail, one was an Iranian-Swiss who spent too much money on a Czech scammer woman who bought a house and land in Bohemai with his money – yes the Oriental people who think with their balls too often – and the Swiss died in jail. Might be some other prisoners hated him for betraying the country, because Swiss bank secrecy is part of their sense of nation. The second worst thing to do in Switzerland is make jokes about the Swiss army – they will put you in jail for that. Swiss self-defence, not minimum credible, is holy for them.

      Romania has searchable public information on cases that common citizens have – even administrative cases and divorces. Well, there are so many crooks there, so you can check anyone online. And the national ID they have is centrally issued and biometric, hard to fake.

      • karl garcia says:

        The reaction of leftists and some ambidextrous is that the national ID is an invasion of privacy,so no can do.
        Bank secrecy too.Corona was still able to withraw all his money even with everyone looking.But people still would not want their bank books opened.

        • Yes, the delicate balance between privacy and freedom. Americans have no national ID and no residence registration requirement. A friend of my mother experienced this – her US army boyfriend left her with a child, and she couldn’t find him in the USA anymore.

          The Swiss love their bank secrecy. It brings a lot of money into the country. But they themselves are honest among themselves. And do not betray any trust. There was a famous story of a Swiss private banker who ate some papers in front of the police…

          If you already have biometrics for COMELEC and 4Ps, the next step is national ID with biometrics – the norm in Continental Europe. If this is combined with democratic control, then big brother may watch. Because the little brothers are also watching Big Brother.

  11. josephivo says:

    Let’s all be saints, then no laws will be needed. If we are all saints we spontaneously will share all information that can help our fellow creatures.

    And we all have to strive for (boring?) sainthood, but in the meantime we could use carrots and sticks to get there. I strongly believe FOI is one of the sticks (or even carrot, as I explained earlier) and so are many of the suggestions in the article and in the comments. The discussion could be “what should be priority?” and then I would agree that electing straight presidents, senators, representatives, governors, mayors, all of a higher priority than the FOI, also having better and more investigative journalism is important, less, simpler and more precise laws, a faster judiciary…

    On the other hand we should rethink the notion of information with what we learned yesterday with the obscure constructions around MRT, with WikiLeaks, with privacy and NSA and most importantly with what happened today with Google (information) becoming the most valuable company, overtaking Apple (products).

    • “On the other hand we should rethink the notion of information”

      There was a very valuable poster – not posting it was pre-Internet – on one of my informatics professor’s doors – DATA IS NOT INFORMATION IS NOT KNOWLEDGE IS NOT WISDOM. Edgar responded to the posting I once made on that with data = his name is Edgar Lores. Information = he is a retired computer expert. Knowledge – now I would say someone who reads him regularly knows how he enumerates, thinks and transcends.

      Most Filipino tabloids are at the level of data = Duterte said, Poe said, Mar Roxas farted. Some better media like Rappler, Interaksyon, CNN Philippines are already giving information which is an improvement. Chempo’s MRT article is knowledge. Edgar is wise.

      • josephivo says:

        Information is raw material. Google translates with its algorithms the infinity of data it has in to information. Most value is created by transforming this information in to knowledge and “Google knows you.”

        • You need to find the right kind of information and knowledge. Just google alone will not find the right information on a given subject you need librarians like Karl.

          And all of us including Karl to aggregate it into further knowledge and even wisdom.

  12. karl garcia says:

    To Continue with a few Good Men or few good monkeys(apes)

  13. “I have shifted into neutral mode as the official campaign season arrives. I trust that you Philippine citizens will all do right by your State-mates and not over think or over-emotionalize this. Reason is the reason for the electoral season.”

    I have said the most important stuff I wanted to say before the start of the official campaign period. Besides I will fast again during the Lenten season, and may be in a bad mood then.

    What I do respect is the right – and the duty – of Filipinos back home to decide their fate. They live on the islands. My stuff is just a help more than anything, I am less of a stakeholder than Joe is. My stuff is a kind of remittance. May the country profit from it. During the campaign period I will continue to remit, mostly in continuing with my history series – or the occasional comment on current events. Or Mar Roxas’ program when he does come out with more details in the media. Finally the country will have to find its own way – the OFWs, migrants and imports can only help.

    • karl garcia says:

      I am sure we will still get a lot from you even in neutral mode.
      There are other topics other than politics or elections.

      • This is my tentative plan:

        1) an article on elections – “The Nation Decides” before the campaign period. It will also be an aggregator article, where I put together the main things that need to be considered:
        1a) the historical context – how things came to be that way – with links to all history articles
        1b) the state context – i will refer to all my state-related articles, constitution, taongbayan..
        1c) the program context – I will refer to my articles that have written about programs
        1d) the government context – Presidential powers, Cabinet, Senate and Congress
        1e) the people context – what the people can do to coach their own government

        2) two historical articles:
        2a) an article on “Disappointment” – Philippine history from 1998-2010, Erap and Arroyo
        2b) an article on “Recovery” – Daang Matuwid, good points, crises and criticisms
        Now obviously these two articles are very hard work, especially since chempo has raised the bar for quality and comprehensiveness. Damn these hardworking Singaporeans! 🙂

        3) John Locke Treatises of Government, Filipino translation
        3a) the first part – why dictatorial systems are not good according to John Locke
        3b) the second part – what a democratic system is about, which inspired Jefferson

        Of course my election article will also have one very harsh evaluation – that the elite has failed in bringing the sense of the constitution, bringing the idea of what democracy should be about to the common people, and may now get the karma for that negligence. But that it in my opinion should be given one more chance to listen to the people and work with them – because of Leni Robredo, sorry not because of Mar. But it IS up to the people.

        • “The Elite Failure” might also be an article before “The Nation Decides”, with this outline:

          1) The political elite has failed to educate the people and involve them in democracy.

          2) The academic elite has failed to truly educate those who are not UP, Ateneo. La Salle.

          3) The elite hogs its privileges and lives far from the reality of the common people. In Germany Angela Merkel goes to buy her own food in the grocery store with just a few security people. She cooks for her husband every evening at home. Former Interior Minister of Bavaria – a federal state with 12.44 million people – Günther Beckstein went to work using the tram no. 19. Did Roxas, for all the good things I see in him, ever take MRT from Cubao to his work at DILG which is EDSA corner Quezon Boulevard? I doubt it.

          The disjoint between the lifestyle of the privileged – yes we two UP and army brats have been part of it as well, Camp Aguinaldo and UP Campus are oases in the bedlam of Manila – is one reason for the lack of sense of urgency among those in power.

    • karl garcia says:

      private plane or not,where will Quiboloy get the money for fuel?

      • Madlanglupa says:

        He thinks the good pastor’s coffers are bottomless.

        That and Du30’s plans to renovate the Palace to include wife and mistress for them to have separate rooms… The only people left to defend him are either anti-administration zealots or paid spambots.

        • If at least Duterte also shaved his hair like some of his supporters do…

          now King Mongkut also had many mistresses, but was a real reformer in Thai history.

          In “Anna and the King” sitcom – also played by Yul Brynner – he is all in favor of algebra.

  14. chempo says:

    We have to ask ourselves first and foremost, what is the objective of the FOI in the case of Philippines? My base feeling is it’s just a showpiece — to show the world there, we too now have an FOI. We have joined the league of “clean” nations.

    If the objective is to help fight corruption — I can name other priorities —
    – Anti-Dynasty Act
    – Banking Secrecy Act — repeal or amend to permit criminal investigations,
    – Persons-with-criminal-records-cannot-sit-in-congress/senate- or- some- other- high- institutions Act,
    – Anti-universal Sufferage Act — no person or institution can demand group endorsement of candidates in an election,
    – Anti-Corruption Unit Act — set up an independent body with wide ranging powers to investigate.
    – Anti-bloody-nonsense TRO Act
    – Anti-Representation Act — charge all giver and taker, tax-disallow representation expenses.
    – Anti-switching-of-parties-after-election Act
    – Serious-Notarisation Act — have proper gazetted lawyers to do this, not in a side street that advertises “Notary Services” & “Photocopy Services” on the same sign board, parties need to appear personally with ID and proper attire (respect for the law and a solemn event) — cannot send messengers.
    ETC ETC ETC — give me time, I can give you 100 priorities.

    If I were to construct a Maslow hierachy for Philippines, the FOI will be right up there at the apex.

    FOI Act is a legislation in futility. It is useless in Philippines. Will never work for its intended purpose. The time for FOI is when the cities are cleared of guys who urinate in the streets.

    If you really want FOI, you got to get your acts together first, before you legislate. Edgar / Irineo has listed them already — records management, computerisation, etc. Legislating before the ground work is done is setting the future up for tons of work by lawyers.

    Transparency is very very important. And much work has already been done in this Pnoy admin. Joe mentioned those various websites. Check them out — I have visited some. They are getting better. If the public can work with govt agencies and prod them and give suggestions on how the info disemmination can be improved — surely that would worth a whole better than FOI Bill.

    • chempo says:

      In all those Acts that I prioritise above — not a single lawmaker has the guts or motivation to propose. So they go for soft options — FOI, maybe Foundlings Act, maybee Increse civil service, pnp, afp salaries bill, increase pension fund bill…..

      • At least there is now a Philippine Competition Commission, meaning the Philippine Competition Act is being implemented. We worried about IRRs some months ago.

        BUT I have a caveat – I read that Philippines EU FTA (free trade agreement) talks have started. Guess what one requirement of the EU was for FTA – you got it, competition legislation and implementation. We Filipinos – me included – need pressure to get moving.

        • Joe America says:

          Yes, I was impressed that they met the deadlines. Commission formed, a good data-oriented, analytical head appointed. Saved me a blog article to complain about it, because I was tracking it. Kudos to both Aquinos, senatorial and presidential.

      • Joe America says:

        Drawing good, forthright deeds from the Legislature is like drawing blood from a turnip. Squeeze for years, and you eventually get a drop of turnip juice.

    • I see two important priorities as well:

      1) Legal reform – the Criminal Code Draft of 2014 was just the beginning as is somewhere in that goddam lazy Congress.

      2) Justice reform – Rizal said more than a hundred years ago that the reason why the English are respected in their possesions is their swift and speedy justice system. He was criticizing Spanish judges and the Penal Code of 1884 which is STILL today’s Filipino law.

      Some more priorities regarding the mindset:

      Think properly and with more structure and priorities, then act, then follow-through and finish things with priorities set and tracked. Aquino was an improvement over many other Presidents, but his SONAs often became self-congratulatory parties, not serious tracking. There are good agencies whose FB pages inform – Project NOAH is a shining example, DOST AGT also. Others just show agency members picture takings at meetings. Cheese!

    • Joe America says:

      Today I visit Immigration for my annual registration. Or, as I view it, renting Philippine near-citizenship for 310 pesos per year. Five years ago, it was a ridiculous paperwork process where I had to bring all my receipts to show I’d paid prior years. Give a photo copy of my card. Wait at the office for an hour as they process it. Two years ago, we submitted a data sheet which they entered into their computer system. Last year, I walked into the office, gave them my card, passport and money, and left in 10 minutes. No paper, no photo copy, quick service. An honest, earnest government does these things. I’m sure they have lots of good info, too, for management.

      I like your list of laws. Can you put no-fault divorce on there, too? It might not seem related to corruption, but I can assure you a lot of judges are getting rich from annulments. Otherwise, it is a superb list.

      Imagine if the Senate started the year with a list like that rather than a list of 1,000 bills thrown into the hopper by the senators claiming progress for having a list.

    • Chempo, you have inspired an article I wrote upon waking up…

      Why do we Filipinos need Singaporeans to tell us the truth about ourselves? Lee Kuan Yew already “kuwaned us” (did it to us) when he wrote that Marcos was all about appearances, that a communique was everything to him… is it all just window-dressing?

      Our priorities, that is the ask – literal translation of “iyan ang tanong” (that’s the question).

  15. Caliphman says:

    It seems that I am perennially taking the contrarIan position on key political issues in this blogsite. Joe and my other esteemed regular co-posters, I beg to disagree with most of you. If the FOI is patterned after the law here in the US and includes safeguards against releasing security-related secrets which clearly would endanger the safety of the country and the public, then I say it is sorely needed in the Philippines and it would be a vital tool against one of its biggest historical and endemic problems, the unfettered corruption and abuse by powerful public officials and their ability to keep it shielded from the populace.

    The general tenor of the arguments presented here is the FOI is unnecessary as there is already info, if not too much of it, that is generally available to the public supposedly because of Aquino’s commitment to transparency in government. As reasonable as that may sound, it is definitely a false agreement. The fact of the matter is that the FOI is aimed at ferreting out info that public officials are hiding or would be reluctant to share because it would expose wrongdoing or incompetence on their part. And it’s not about trusting the Aquino administration but mainly his predecessors like Marcos, Estrada, and Arroyo and successors including probably Binay, Duterte and so on and so on where an FYI already in place would or will have prevented or stopped government abuses. If but for the FYI here in the US, there would have been no Watergate and Nixon’s hidden illegal activities would not have been exposed and subjected to impeachment. There would have been no release of hidden government info on the Vietnam War the content of which was more political than military and were the sparks that started the popular movements against it.

    In the Philippines, there is still so much corruption and mismanagement everywhere and at all levels of government that rages unabated and is so deep-rooted that enacting it would be a miracle.
    Even a constitutional amendment calling for such a law is probably useless. It would be like anti-dynasty provision, public officials are so widely and deeply engaged it that there is little hope for passing legislation to enable and implement it. And most of you are not in favor of an FOI law here? Wait until a Binay or Duterte presidency, but by then it would already be too late.

    • Care to share how the FOIA works in the US?

      Does anyone from the society know how the FOIA requests work?

      Very curious about this.

      During the NBN ZTE and the Hello Garci scandals executive privilege was invoked by PGMA to shield her Cabinet Secretaries from attending Senate Hearings.

      How would something like this be resolved with a well designed FOIA?

      • sonny says:

        gianC, being based in the US, I would do my due diligence first from A to Z: this would include where does my concern belong to city? county? state? federal? who are the advocacy groups within hailing distance? friend, colleague? by this time my network navigational chart is generated. Simultaneously, I am searching the ANNUAL FEDERAL REGISTER as the one-stop omnibus that helps me focus my field of view for my concern. This publication is the mandated (top-down) clearinghouse for helping the citizens, individual and corporate, gather government information for precisely interacting with same.

        I realize the Philippines’ demography and consistency is one-third that of the US. But human is human. I hope this helps a bit. (madugo ang labanan; everybody starts with the letter of the law; my own experience – I was the aggrieved party in hit-from-behind accident, my initial contact in court (beyond contact with the police officer writing up the accident) was the corporate counsel of the City of Chicago; I opted for my insurance paying my own repairs).

        Democracy doesn’t promise the fruits of the pursuit of happiness, only the happiness of pursuit. 🙂

        In my opinion, our own FOI must be passed to the point where a similar hardcopy like PHILIPPINE ANNUAL NATIONAL REGISTER is accessible to everybody and our struggle against the culture of impunity must continue

        Here’s a sample search on the FEDERAL REGISTER on FOIA (search argument – “freedom” on Federal Register site:

    • Joe America says:

      A fine rebuttal. If we all agreed, we’d just have karl and Irineo telling jokes all day, or we’d be discussing Kant an Hume to the delight of Edgar and josephivo.

    • josephivo says:

      Yes the fact that it was not approved by congress is the proof that it is needed, just as the anti-dynasty bill and other bills mentioned by Chempo.

    • chempo says:

      Caliphman, I agree with you absolutely. I just think Philippines has a whole lot of other priorities to attend to.

  16. After asking Caliphman about FOIA I google some things:

    What can I ask for under the FOIA?

    A FOIA request can be made for any agency record. You can also specify the format in which you wish to receive the records (for example, printed or electronic form). The FOIA does not require agencies to create new records or to conduct research, analyze data, or answer questions when responding to requests.

    The key thing here is if the bill authorizes each agency to create an office to answer these queries are very doable.

  17. caliphman says:

    The concept stated as simply as possible is to allow the public access to all government records and info and where there is any dispute as to the need to withhold such info such as national security, to have a judge or the courts decide.

  18. cha says:

    While I find the efforts of the Aquino administration towards an open data system on various aspects of governing (particularly when it comes to transparency in both the national and local budgets) laudable, I would still lobby for a law that would protect the citizens’ right to access information that can help protect them against the abuses of corrupt and dishonest officials and enable them to seek justice and punishment for those they have entrusted with power and authority who in the end do them wrong.

    In a perfect world, yes, Freedom of Information would not be needed because in this perfect world, government officials would indeed be honest and earnest. But alas we don’t live in this perfect world, not in the US, Australia, Europe and cettainly not in the Philippines. Too many in givernment are corrupt, Ombudsman Carpio Morales just sadly observed the other day. There you go.

  19. karl garcia says:

    Why does the chicken and their eggs have to be involved?
    Chempo says a law that is against the wall like urinating must first be in place.
    The hundreds of first priorities must be done first….
    This has to happen first- having discipline,changing bad habits,changing traditions,changing culture,changing beliefs,changing directions

    some say nice to have,some say it is a must have.
    Some Say:The time is up and the Time is Now.and Some say:Not yet.

    Considering the backlogs in courts, were dilatory tactics make justice delayed is justice denied just a suggestion.
    Can court proceedings,trials be faster with FOI?
    Can we have speedy justice?
    Would there be no more vigilante justice?
    Can subpoena powers be jacked up wirh steroids,with FOI?
    Will the NBI’s jobs be easier,with FOI?

    The amendment to sandigan bayan law, transfers “minor crimes” to trial courts.
    That is only a change in venue,but the backlog will remain.

    back to chicken and the egg.

    • karl garcia says:

      Forgot this : Would the Binay senate investigations be faster with FOI?

    • josephivo says:

      If we stop respecting speed limits, will we affect any of the following?
      “Faster court proceedings?
      Can we have speedy justice?
      Would there be no more vigilante justice?
      Can subpoena powers be jacked up with steroids?
      Will the NBI’s jobs be easier?”

      Society is complex, FOI and the things you mentioned are unrelated just as the are unrelated with traffic rules. FOI has to do with transparency, one of the many tools to combat corruption. Spin could be more citizen involvement in politics, preventive “quality improvements” by civil servants, better international ratings….

      • josephivo says:

        On Binay, yes if more information was ready available the investigations would have been faster.

        • Joe America says:

          What information? City level? Bank records would not be available via FOI. Bid information? Cost of urinals? I wonder what info, exactly.

          • josephivo says:

            e.g. with JunJun still in office it was difficult to get city records. Only few records of Binay’s secretary are available… All came-up 2 years ago, how long did it take for Trilianes to collect his information? With Binay was already suspected for a long time, with access to city files cases would have been filed10 years earlier.

            • chempo says:

              I think it is niave to think that with FOI all incriminating evidence of foul acts would somehow be left intact.

              • josephivo says:

                I don’t belief in a magic bullet neither, therefor you have to attack the corruption monster from as many angles as possible. Maybe ban the sales of shredders to address your point? 🙂

                FOI benefit will be mainly preventive. For somethings I behave differently when the curtains are open rather then closed.

              • karl garcia says:


      • karl garcia says:

        speed limits is the main reason why there are no speedy trials.

        If there are no speed limits,all trials would have been finished in record time.

        sorry,I am not good as Edgar in putting things into order.He set a high bar.

        I apologize if i have been annoying you.

        my point was that if in courts, lawyers already have a hard time getting information, how can an FOI lawmake it easier for ordinary citizens?

        in the senate,they have been trying to get info.
        we had heard invoking the right to remain silent,the right against self incrimation,lack of jurisdiction,executive privilege.
        senate already has powerful subpoena powers,yet it is also hard to extract information,

        I am actually for FOI.
        I am in the position that bicameral conference meetings must be open to the public.
        I am in the position that as long as it is not about National Security,go for it.

  20. Sup says:

    ”plastic disks with grooves making music”

    Did you say that JoeAm?

    Next time you speak Pnoy ask him about his plastic disc collection….He is an audio freak….

    The quality of the disc is way beyond anything else..

    A disc player/ turntable can go up over more than 1.000.000 peso

    You want to know more about this?

    (Pinoy page…)

    Sure you gonna take back your plastic disc opinion….


  21. cha says:

    Open Data initiatives in the Philippines

    The Aquino government has been keen to pursue an Open Data system/ network in the country. Kudos to the President and all those involved. I wonder though what will happen to al, these when a new administration takes over.

    1. What is Open Data :

    Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone – subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.
    The full Open Definition gives precise details as to what this means. To summarize the most important:
    * Availability and Access: the data must be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably by downloading over the internet. The data must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.
    * Re-use and Redistribution: the data must be provided under terms that permit re-use and redistribution including the intermixing with other datasets.
    * Universal Participation: everyone must be able to use, re-use and redistribute – there should be no discrimination against fields of endeavour or against persons or groups. For example, ‘non-commercial’ restrictions that would prevent ‘commercial’ use, or restrictions of use for certain purposes (e.g. only in education), are not allowed.

    Source :

    2. The plan:


    1.0 The Government of the Philippines (GPH) is thrilled to introduce the program Open Data Philippines (ODP). This Action Plan details the various elements of the initiative and seeks to:

    * Express the commitment of the GPH to practice Open Government Data; 

    * Introduce the global movement on Open Data; 

    * Stipulate the principles that guide the ODP; 

    * Convey the pre-work conducted in launching the program; 

    * Define the tasks of the ODP Task Force; 

    * Introduce the Open Government Data portal of the GPH,, and its features; 

    * Guide all agencies of the GPH in their indispensable participation to the program; and 

    * Serve as the program’s blueprint until 2016; 


    Click to access Open-Data-Philippines-Action-Plan-2014-2016.pdf

    3. Where it’s at aims to make national government data searchable, accessible, and useful, with the help of the different agencies of government, and with the participation of the public.


    4. Get social media updates here:

    5. Private sector initiatives/ partnership

    As part of the Open Government Partnership, the Philippines have initiated programs on anti-corruption, ensuring accountability, participation, and empowerment of the poor. However, these programs are not without its share of challenges and difficulties. Current initiatives can be characterized as inadequate or lacking the capacity on how to fully use government data and exploit the powers of new technologies to improve public service delivery.

By using the case approach, the study will examine OGD practices and needs of selected health and good governance programs in the Philippines. The study will also dissect the localization efforts of these programs and how boundary partners take part in the OGD practices. The role of new technologies in localization of programs will be examined in the study.

Furthermore, upon the identification of practice gaps, the study will draft policy recommendations that can address these gaps. The study will also draft management of information system (MIS) implementation guidelines that can assist local health and government units in their OGD initiatives.


    • Joe America says:

      Thanks for providing the meat to the President’s Open Data initiative. It produces the following thoughts:

      1. I suspect he was looking for good management data as well as FOI kinds of data. He uses metrics, as a business executive would.

      2. A business executive would not accept a process that is a money loser unless it promises a future return or has offsetting benefits. I think FOI is a money loser when one considers (a) the cost of keeping the law up to date (refer to Sonny’s link on the Federal register and the amount of tedium to keep laws up to date), (b) the cost of staff sent looking for information, and (c) how rarely used the current data are, considering that news reports remain mainly emotional and quotes.

      3. Whether data represents anti-corruption value remains to be seen. Until we look at the law and find out what kinds of data are being requested. I think the idea of an open request, any time, for any information, is unrealistic. I note that the US law require agencies to build no new data gathering systems to fulfill a request; a requestor gets what is there or nothing. Put another way, “show us the law” draft.

      • cha says:

        It’s just a pity that the President’s communications people have not been able to communicate effectively what his administration has been able to put in place absent the FOI law. Sadder even since the person spearheading the open data effort apparently is Ediwin Lacierda, his spokesperson. Maybe because Lacierda is not really even able to give this his full attention, given his other actual responsibilities in the administration.

        Also as Giancarlo noted below there are still gaps even in so far as keeping the available data up-to-date is conceerned. It wil take a gargantuan effort, I would say, to fully realize what the Open Data proponents in this administration have envisioned and articulated in their plan given the state of ICT practice as well as the many challenges, political and otherwise, that can derail this initiative. But if we look at where they probably started, I reckon what has been accomplished may be considered quite significant.

        This effort might have progressed farther if the government had an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) portfolio headed by someone with actual experience in the field. I just read a previous news report that Congress has approved the creation of an ICT department sometime last year. Still trying to find out what’s happened to that.

        As for the FOI, I think people are clamoring for this “in principle” (myself included) but you could be right, the framers of the law might actually end up shortchanging all of us and set the state of government transparency efforts even farther back, as was the case with the Cybercrime Law. So yes, “show us the law” first, of course. If Binay wins though, never mind. This would all have been just a dream.

    • The key here is to look at the data that is being shared. A cursory look shows that these are not updated as often as possible this is because human intervention is necessary for a lot of these data sources. A lot of the data from dbm, btr etc are actually reports that are used internally and exposed through the internet. Because of this if the data from the DBM, BSP,BTr websites suddenly disappears this is either a hardware failure or was done with full agency.

      TLDR:The problem is that a lot of the open data needs to be created and manually uploaded.

      • cha says:

        “The problem is that a lot of the open data needs to be created and manually uploaded.”

        Yes, and most of the government agencies and units are probably not even equipped to carry this out.

  22. karl garcia says:

    All pending legislations……..better luck next time.

  23. karl garcia says:

    About Open data project.

    the problem is manual uploading.
    We have a huge bureacracy who hates computers.

    Go to customs- they hate automation
    all automation there is IBM- Ibalik sa manual of in english: It’s Back to Manual.
    what will the customs modernization do.
    it is nice to have.
    Will all computerization will be implemented,because there is now a law?

  24. josephivo says:

    “We have a huge bureaucracy who hates computers.” They love computers, needed to play FreeCell, they only hate automation.

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