Triggers & barriers to access
By Karol Anne M. IlaganPhilippine Center for Investigative Journalism
A CLEAR, working system – with specific procedures and dedicated staff personnel – triggers quick, correct, and complete action by some government agencies on access toinformation requests.But the absence of such a system in most other agencies, as well as the lack of fullydefined rules and procedures that all agencies must observe in responding to requests,remain barriers to access.The bad results: inordinate delays, token compliance with lawful deadlines, disregard for the Constitution’s guarantees of the public’s right to know, and a general slide to secrecy,not transparency, in most of the bureaucracy under the Aquino administration.For instance, requests for copies of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth(SALN) that the PCIJ filed with the secretaries of Finance and Interior and LocalGovernment drew quick and correct action.The requests were forwarded promptly to the departments’ respective personnel units thathad copies of the documents. The personnel units approved the. requests like these wereregular office transactions. Ahead of the 10 working days’ deadline in law for agencies toact on SALN requests, the two institutions got the work done.In contrast, most other agencies moved exceedingly slow on similar requests, flipped andtossed the requests to other agencies, or simply ignored and rebuffed the requestsoutright.The Office of the President and the Ombudsman are the stellar examples of restrictive,inefficient access to information regimes in place today.Yet another is the Philippine National Police. Over the last three months since Feb. 18,the PNP has passed around the PCIJ’s request for SALNs to at least five PNP units: fromthe office of the PNP director-general to the office of the PNP Internal Affairs Service, tothe office of the PNP Chief of the Directorial Staff, to the PNP Public Information Office(PIO), and finally, to the PNP Directorate for Personnel and Records Management(DPRM).Three months and five offices later, the PNP has yet to provide the PCIJ a single page of a single SALN that any of its top cops had filed.