March 1, 2022 | 11:27 PM GMT+0800 Last Edit: March 1, 2022
The National Privacy Commission (NPC) has issued guidelines on evaluating requests for personal data about public officers. NPC Advisory No. 2022-01 states that any disclosure of personal data shall observe the general privacy principles of transparency, legitimate purpose, and proportionality. Additionally, every government agency must be responsible for personal data under its control or custody.
The personal data of public officers, including individuals who are or were performing service under contract for the government, may be disclosed if the requested information is a matter of public concern or interest, provided that the information is relevant to the subject matter of the request, and disclosure is not otherwise prohibited by any law or regulation. Privacy Commissioner John Henry D. Naga emphasized that the Advisory “aims to strike a balance between the right of the people to information on matters of public concern and the right to privacy of an individual.”
“Thus, the Advisory recognizes the Filipino people’s right to information and the necessity of an open and transparent government, while also giving due consideration and respect to the dignity, safety, and human rights of public officers,” Naga added.
On approving requests
Under Section 7 of the Advisory, requests for information about public officers and individuals performing service under contract for the government must have a clear, specific, and legitimate purpose that does not contradict laws, morals, or public policy.
When evaluating requests, the government agency shall determine whether the information requested is a matter of public concern and whether there is a public purpose to be served that may outweigh the rights and freedoms of the public officer as a data subject. The requested information or document may be granted or denied upon the evaluation of the government agency considering the aforesaid elements. Further, access or disclosure of the requested information must not exceed the specified purpose declared by the requestor.
If the requested document or information is denied and deemed not of public concern, the requestor must be informed within a reasonable time accompanied by a justification.
The public officer whose information is being requested shall also be informed of the existence of the request and the action taken by the concerned government agency.
The government agency may likewise determine whether particular sensitive personal information is irrelevant or unnecessary to the fulfillment of the purpose of the requesting party which should be redacted to protect the dignity, safety and security of the public officer. Some of these information may include: a) Home address of the declarant; b) Details of any unmarried children below eighteen (18) years of age living in declarant’s household, if any, particularly their names, dates of birth, and ages; c) Signatures of the declarant and co-declarant; and d) Government-issued ID numbers of the declarant and co-declarant.
Information allowed to be disclosed
Deputy Privacy Commissioner Leandro Angelo Aguirre said that the guidelines emphasize that data privacy and freedom of information coexist and must be mutually enforced.
“We hope that this Circular addresses some misconceptions that data privacy and the freedom of information are in conflict with each other. A key mandate of the National Privacy Commission is to ensure the free flow of information. The work of the NPC is to ensure that the access to and disclosure of the personal data of public officers is not curtailed but rather done in a manner that is consistent with what the law requires and respects their rights and freedoms as data subjects,” Aguirre said.
Information about public officers and individuals performing service under contract for the government that may be disclosed are the following: 1) the fact that the individual is or was an officer or employee of, or performed service/s under contract for, a government institution; 2) the title, business address, and office telephone number of the individual; 3) the classification, salary range, and responsibilities of the position held by the individual; 4) the name of the individual on a document prepared by the individual in the course of employment or contract with the government; and 5) other circumstances similar to the foregoing.
Documents (e.g., Personal Data Sheet or PDS, Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or SALN) that contain sensitive personal information of the concerned public officer, or his or her family, may be granted if there is a declared, specified, and lawful purpose.
Read the NPC advisory in full here: