Before asking this set of questions on the 1983 assassination of Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., I asked his president-son about a new Securities and Exchange Commission decision to ban journalists and researchers from using the “reverse search” function of the SEC database. Here is my question, which Aquino said he would still look into.
I forgot to tell the President that this “reverse search” function has been used by journalists and researchers without abuse and question for over a decade now. One had to go through the hoops to use it. The SEC did not allow just anybody to use it.
My apologies to SEC Chairperson Teresita Herbosa. She was very kind to meet me on this matter. I raised it today at the forum with the president because I felt that this matter had to be settled before the election season. And so I asked PNoy:
Sir, in 2012 you signed into law the Data Privacy Act.
Last month, I was shocked to find out that I could no longer research at the Securities and Exchange Commission using the “reverse search function” of the SEC database in order to verify the corporations of a certain politician in office. This simply means, if I type someone’s name, a list of corporations where that name has shares shows up, but it’s still up to me to verify if that’s the person I’m looking for. It’s quite tedious.
I was told I could no longer do it since this violated the Data Privacy Act.
SEC Chair Herbosa kindly met with me, together with the SEC legal counsel, so I could request in behalf of journalists and researchers for this function to be available to us. This was the method I used to verify the corporations of Chief Justice Renato Corona. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism also used the reverse function to look at President Joseph Estrada’s various companies.
I told SEC Chair Herbosa and the legal counsel that the Data Privacy Act made a specific exception for journalists and researchers. This is Section 4 (d) which states that “This Act does not apply to…
(d) Personal information processed for journalistic, artistic, literary or research purposes;
Chairperson Herbosa also indicated to me that they do not know how long they could continue allowing the public to access the incorporation papers of companies because this,too, might be in violation of the Data Privacy Act since the computer data provided have been processed.
This means potential investors would not even be able to scrutinize a company asking for their money if it does not have prior consent.
Chairperson Herbosa and the legal counsel told me they would seek a legal opinion from the Office of the President. It is for this reason I am raising these questions:
Don’t you think it would be embarrassing for your administration to end on a note where it is going to effectively deny information to the public, information that would make it possible to expose corrupt officials?
Does the reverse search violate the Data Privacy Act and does looking at corporate disclosures of corporations violate the Data Privacy Act?
My thanks to ABS-CBN for providing this video clip of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum, where he answered my questions regarding the Marcos dictatorship. Thank you, too, Barnaby Lo of CCTV for asking that follow-up question on whether the Marcoses should apologize. The clip below begins with the last portion of his answer to my SEC question: