Duterte’s FOI highlighted in World Press Freedom Day celebration

The Freedom of Information (FOI) which President Rodrigo Duterte imposed through an executive order to boost his fight against corruption right at the start of his administration in 2016 was among the major topics discussed at a forum during the World Press Freedom Day celebration on May 26, 2019.

According to the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) which organized the event at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, the Philippine government has become more transparent in its transactions through the approval of the FOI.

“Dismissing disinformation by sharing accurate information empowers citizens and keeps the government in check,” an AmCham statement read, adding that FOI “strengthens public participation in governance”.

Young professionals and media representatives attended the forum where they also discussed the Philippine government’s campaign against fake news or disinformation.

“In the Philippines, more than half of the population is active in social media. That is why, it is important that users only share the truth and avoid gossips. Also, the Philippine government has started its campaign to educate people in distinguishing facts from fiction,” the statement read.

“Moreover, the government does not impose censorship as it is unnecessary and can prevent people from expressing their thoughts freely. But citizens are still held accountable, especially when they make libelous remarks and comments,” it added.

Duterte signed EO No. 2 mandating full public disclosure of all offices under the executive branch on July 23, 2016, a day before he delivered his first state of the nation address (SONA).

On behalf of Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, Assistant Secretary and FOI Executive Director Kris Ablan attended the forum celebration as one of the speakers.

Other speakers in the forum were Casa Camon Group Co-founder Miel Abong, Facebook’s Digital Media Steering Committee Philippine Representative Ibba Bernardo, and CNN Philippines News Anchor Rex John Remitio.

A significant takeaway from the forum was the discussion on how there is no absolute truth and that the people should be informed enough to understand that news from the government and private media are not there for people to believe, but for people to judge.

The discussions also focused on how digital citizens utilize digital media in advancing their interests and creating new platforms for discourse. A digital citizen is defined as a person who engages in conversations and socializes in social media or the internet.

Under the ‘New Media Age,’ the participants have noticed that the public has more power in disseminating information faster to people around the world.

”This new opportunity for communication also translates to new threats in our society. While citizens in a democratic country have the right to freedom of speech, the digital citizens are also allowed to share any information that is aligned with their beliefs,” the statement read.

“The digital world is a free space where one can share information, regardless whether it is true or not. It has worked wonders for many people, especially for business owners, students, and the government,” it added. (PNA)