DOF gag order
A memo forbidding Finance officials from speaking to the media demonstrates how urgent the passage of the FOI bill is
By Iris C. Gonzales
FINANCE SECRETARY Cesar Purisima has issued a memo forbidding officials of the Department of Finance (DOF) from speaking to the press on matters not related to their duties as fiscal authorities.
The memo was dated July 19 and released to the media on July 23.
Dubbed as a gag order by some members of the press covering the Finance department, the memo was issued to “ensure that the DOF’s policy pronouncements are clearly communicated to the public.”
“Officials are advised not to comment on issues that go beyond their scope of authority. If they do so, the media (are) advised that said official does not reflect the position of the Department and such comments are made on their own personal capacity,” Purisima said in the order.
He listed the Finance officials covered by the order as follows:
- On all matters pertaining to the Domestic Finance Group – Undersecretary Jeremias N. Paul, Jr. and Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresa S. Habitan;
- On all matters pertaining to the Revenue Operations and Legal Affairs Group – Undersecretary Carlo A. Carag;
- On all matters pertaining to the International Finance Group – Undersecretary Rosalia V. De Leon;
- On all matters pertaining to the Corporate Affairs Group and Privatization Group – Undersecretary John Philip P. Sevilla;
- On all matters pertaining to the Policy Development and Management Services Group – Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran.
Not surprisingly, Finance reporters found the memorandum out of order, and some beat reporters wrote about it.
BusinessMirror reporter VG Cabuag, in a July 24 article, quoted an unnamed source in the department as saying that since Purisima took over as Finance chief in 2010, “there has been oral instruction that bars other officials from making statements to the media, especially on the state of the Philippine economy, among others, but this was the first time that such order was formalized.”
PPP: The Trigger Point
Several days before Purisima issued the memorandum, beat reporters wrote a story on the potential contribution of the government’s public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects on economic growth.
The story, which quoted Finance Undersecretary Beltran, focused on what the PPP could have contributed to the economy had the program taken off last year as the Aquino administration promised.
“The Philippine economy could grow by an additional two percentage points this year if the government is able to bid out all eight infrastructure projects under its PPP program,” a Finance official said.
Given these estimates Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran said the Philippine economy has the potential to grow by seven to eight percent this year from the official target range of five percent to six percent if the PPP projects are rolled out as planned.
However, Beltran noted that state spending has been improving.
At the same time, he said that spending would improve further if the PPP projects planned for the year would be bid out.”