PCOO Assistant Secretary and Freedom of Information (FOI) program director Kristian R. Ablan (Screengrabbed from FOI-Philippines)
MANILA – A responsive and open government could help build trust among Filipinos especially in times of crisis, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Kristian R. Ablan said on Monday.
“Because in times of crisis, a strong call for transparency and accountability is ultimately sought,” Ablan said during the country’s virtual celebration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) on Monday.
Ablan, also the FOI program director, said the country’s celebration of IDUIA has highlighted the need of Filipinos to access information amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
On the sidelines of the virtual celebration, FOI Philippines conducted the presentation and awarding of the second annual FOI Multi-Arts Festival.
Ablan said the organized contests for the FOI Multi-Arts Festival seek to unleash the creativity of Filipinos in depicting and advocating the importance of access to information in nation-building.
“We fully recognize the need for access to information because, through it, we can better equip ourselves in making the right and informed decisions and protect ourselves and our loved ones from vulnerabilities,” Ablan said.
FOI Philippines also targets to further expand and strengthen its platforms to access information by fulfilling “a promise of development and relieve the sense of democracy,” he added.
Ablan, meanwhile, said the FOI-Project Management Office (PMO), PCOO, along with some 634 FOI-compliant agencies of the country’s executive branch, are working diligently to ensure that timely, accurate, and truthful information is accessible to every citizen.
“I personally believe that if there’s one thing that keeps us together as a people, it is hope, and when we make information accessible, it gives people hope that the system can be trusted, that the FOI Program can be trusted,” he said, noting that the FOI has made its impact.
Even as a small institution, Ablan said “FOI works”.
On the other hand, PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar said people armed with the right information are confident in choosing what is best for them as they keep themselves safe from misinformation and disinformation.
“We are doing what needs to be done to make sure that the Filipino people can have access to significant information so that our right to access information is exercised so that we continue to honor our democracy,” he said.
Andanar urged the public to work hand-in-hand with the government as it pushes for a transparent and accountable government.
“We also implore you to arm yourselves with the desire to know and to be critical of what you read or hear,” said Andanar.
He then encouraged the public to support FOI programs and the proposed Media Workers Welfare bill.
“Together with our partners, we are motivated to proactively deliver reliable and accurate information to every Filipino through our different communication platforms,” Andanar said.
The PCOO has been pushing to earn more support for the FOI bill from legislators in both houses of Congress while bolstering its efforts to implement access to information at the local level.
The PCOO has also been lobbying for the passage of the Media Workers Welfare bill, which seeks to grant more accessible opportunities for media workers including housing programs, regular employment, job security, and health benefits. (PNA)