TRANSPARENCY CHAMPION. Officials from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) confer the Freedom of Information (FOI) champion award to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), led by Secretary Silvestre Bello III together with other officials from the department during the FOI Awards on Thursday (Dec. 12, 2019). The FOI Awards recognize government offices that have increased efforts in fulfilling the rights of Filipinos to know public information. (PNA photo by Adrian Carlo Herico)

MANILA -- The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) held its 3rd edition of the FOI (Freedom of Information) Awards on Thursday to recognize government offices as well as non-government organizations that have made significant progress in providing Filipinos their right to access information on matters of public concern.

PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar opened the awarding ceremony with the current figures for FOI requests as of Sept. 30, 2019, where there has been an increase in manual submissions to compliant national government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC), state universities and colleges (SUC) and local water districts.

"Based on submitted FOI reports, 29, 490 paper-based requests were made personally, while 18,036 requests were lodged at the FOI ePortal. Out of these online requests to 447 participating government agencies, 47 percent have been successfully facilitated and processed. This means out of 10 FOI requests, half are disclosed to the public," Andanar said.

Emphasizing the importance with making government information available in the fight against misinformation, he noted that "proliferation of false news corrupts state-people relations, and delays if not obliterate development while dissemination of accurate information empowers the people, connects them to the government through the rebuilding of trust, which in turn inspires progress."

For the top department nominees in 2019, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) was awarded as the department champion, followed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as the first runner-up and the Department of Energy (DOE) as the second runner-up.

The Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) was recognized as the FOI champion for SUCs, with Kalinga State University and Cebu Normal University coming in as first and second runner-up, respectively.

In the GOCC category, the Philippine Ports Authority landed the champion position, with the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for the first runner-up and the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) as the second runner-up.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) bagged the champion award for government agencies, with the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) as the first runner-up and the Design Center of the Philippines as second runner-up.

Government offices and non-government organizations together with their personnel were also given plaques of appreciation to recognize their contributions in promoting freedom of information within their scope and line of work.

The FOI Awards were first done in 2017 following the signing of Executive Order No. 02 by President Rodrigo Duterte a year before. It mandates the disclosure of public records and other relevant information, subject to exceptions, for all government offices under the executive branch should a request be made by the member of the public. (PNA)