Malacanang has updated the inventory of exceptions to the right to information, which now includes documents on the surveillance of suspects under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Memorandum Circular No. 15 signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin stated that among the latest exceptions to the right to information were the records of surveillance on suspects and interception and recording of communications acquired by a law enforcement agent or military personnel pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
The anti-terrorism bill was signed into law in July 2020 by then-President Rodrigo Duterte.
Also on the list of exceptions were records or information in connection with any investigation conducted by the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) when such disclosure will deprive the respondent of the right to a fair and impartial investigation.
The PACC, however, was abolished under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order No. 1 and its powers and functions were transferred to the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs.
Under the records of proceedings deemed confidential by law for the privacy or protection of individuals, the records involving actions for support such as petitions for recognition and enforcement of foreign decisions or judgments on support are also exempted from the right to access to information.
Further, cases of gender-based streets and public spaces sexual harassment, including information on the victim and the accused who is a minor, as well as children in situations of armed conflict were no longer covered by the right to information.
The latest memorandum circular states that the foregoing list of exceptions shall be without prejudice to existing laws, jurisprudence, rules or regulations authorizing the disclosure of the excepted information upon satisfaction of certain conditions in certain cases, such as the concerned party or as may be ordered by the courts.
“In evaluating requests for information, all heads of offices are enjoined to ensure the meaningful exercise of the public of their right to access to information on public concerns,” Memorandum Circular No. 15 stated.