Media Workers Welfare, FOI bills endorsed to Senate, House

Published August 23, 2020, 11:18 AM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Priority policies being pushed by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) have been endorsed to the Senate and House for action.

Communications Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan said the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and the Media Workers Welfare bill were have sent to the office of Senators Bong Go, Joel Villanueva, and Bong Revilla and House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan

“Ang aming opisina ay (Our office is) in close coordination sa kani-kanilang legislative teams to take strategic actions to lobby the FOI bill in both houses,” Ablan said during the Network News Briefing Thursday.

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar expressed optimism that the FOI and Media Workers Welfare bills will be heard and given a chance as these will help springboard the empowerment of citizens.

The PCOO has been lobbying support for more accessible opportunities for media workers in housing programs, regular employment, job security, and health benefits with the Media Workers Welfare bill with the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS) in the lead.

The proposed bill was submitted to Congress in early 2019 and sponsored by the Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) partylist.

According to Ablan, they continuously promote FOI through various communications and partnership initiatives, including the conduct of capacity-building programs for local government units (LGUs).

He said his team has adapted to the new normal in reaching out to LGUs by organizing its first virtual FOI conference on Aug. 28 with participants from the Visayas.

“Layunin po ng FOI conference for LGUs na mapalawig ang kaalaman at kasanayan ng ating mga LGUs sa pagpapatupad ng FOI program sa kani-kanilang komunidad. Layon ng activity na ito na madagdagan pa ang mga LGUs na may FOI ordinance or executive order (The FOI conference aims to widen the knowledge and skills of our LGUs in the implementation of the FOI program in their respective communities),” he said.

The FOI bill seeks to expand the scope of open governance by directing agencies to disclose information on projects and other matters that involve public interest. With this, the FOI-Project Management Office has launched an online campaign for citizens to support the passage of the FOI Act.

President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 2, or the Freedom of Information (FOI) Program, on July 23, 2016. The EO covers all government offices under the Executive branch. Ablan said the PCOO aims to expand the coverage of the order.

Salient features of the PCOO draft bill include crafting a mechanism that will refer and transfer requests to appropriate agencies that should address the request and creation of a records management system.

An oversight body or the FOI Commission will also be established, along with the creation of a central appeals and review committee (CARC) for all FOI compliant agencies in the three major branches of the government — Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary.

The Office of the Ombudsman will also have the power to review the decisions from the CARC.

Ablan said the PCOO will conduct FOI workshops for librarians with pilot webinar sessions on Sept. 11 and Oct.16.

He encouraged registered librarians to participate in the webinar to earn Continuing Professional Development (CPD) units upon completion.

“Dahil kinikilala po ng FOI office ang papel ng ating librarians bilang (Because the FOI recognizes the role of librarians as) essential gatekeepers of information, we want them to be equipped with knowledge and skills as they implement the FOI program in their respective libraries and learning institutions,” he said.