By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday welcomed the order of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) to establish Freedom of Information (FOI) sections or desks in all of the police stations across the country “to promote the transparency of information.”
Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, PNP spokesperson, said the creation of FOI desks will ensure that the public will have easy and direct access to police documents such as spot reports or police blotters.
“The PNP adheres to openness in governance and, as such, it will ensure that all information related to the performance of its mandate shall be disclosed, consistent with the provision of upholding the Freedom of Information,” Bulalacao said.
Lawyer Rogelio Casurao, Napolcom Vice-Chairman and Executive Officer, announced last Tuesday the issuance of Resolution No. 2018-182 dated April 17, 2018 which approved the activation of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Section under the Public Information Division (PID) of the PNP Directorate for Police-Community Relations (DPCR).
Casurao said the creation of an additional section under the PID-DPCR “shall be the primary repository of requests for access to information.”
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Executive Order No. 02 or EO on Freedom of Information on July 23, 2016 which operationalizes in the Executive Branch the people’s constitutional right to information and the state policies to full public disclosure and transparency in the public service.
“Pursuant to EO No.2, the PNP is committed to disclose to the public any and all information involving public interest under its custody, subject to the limitations as provided for under the constitution and other applicable laws, rules, regulations and procedures,’ Bulalacao assured.
There have been reports in the past that cops were too strict to give copies of public documents not only to complainants but also to journalists on the ground covering the drug war.
The resolution was also issued amid the Supreme Court (SC)’s order to the PNP to submit the case folders of thousands of drug suspects who were killed in President Duterte’s crackdown against illegal drugs.
Asked if a situation occurs where cops would fail to provide a public document, Bulalacao said, “Complainants can at all times make a request for police reports from police stations subject to PNP policies relative to (EO) on Freedom of Information).”
He, however, clarified the request should be subject to the existing policy as certain cases which have to be kept for “security purposes” including those involving children in conflict with the law, violation of women and children (VAWC) and other sensitive cases that will affect national security.
According to Casurao, the FOI sections or desks “shall be responsible for handling, receiving, evaluating, processing, dispatching and monitoring actions and responses to all requests for access to PNP-related information within their respective areas of responsibility.”
The FOI sections or desks will initially be operated by 2,157 uniformed personnel composed of 124 Police Commissioned Officers (PCOs) and 2,033 Police Non-Commissioned Officers (PNCOs), he added.
“A copy of the resolution has been submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to serve as basis for the provision of supplemental budget for the recruitment of 2,033 Non-Uniformed Personnel (NUP) who shall replace the PNCO complement,” he said.