Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

Proposed FOI ordinance could affect media work

November 6th, 2016 · No Comments

OPINION OF CEBU CITIZENS-PRESS COUNCIL ON THE PROPOSED FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ORDINANCE OF THE CEBU CITY COUNCIL
Nov. 6, 2016

Based on the collegial view of the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC), expressed in Resolution #1, series of 2016, approved during its 44th en banc membership meeting last Sept. 22, 2016 at Quest Hotel, may we state first what we applaud in the proposed FOI ordinance:

[1] IT IS CLEAR AND UNEQUIVOCAL ON POLICY, COVERAGE AND PROCEDURE, given in plain and direct language, a virtue not found in many laws and ordinances;

[2] IT EXPLICITLY RESTATES THE BASICS OF THE RIGHT:
— “full public disclosure of all (government) transactions involving public interest” (section 2);
— “legal presumption in favor of access to information, public records and official records” (section 7);
— “no request for information shall be denied unless it clearly falls under any of the exceptions enshrined in the Constitution, existing law or jurisprudence.”

[3] IT DOES NOT ADD EXCEPTIONS OTHER THAN WHAT EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 2 OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT PROVIDES. Any ordinance or regulation of a local government on FOI cannot be more onerous than what the presidential executive order provides and, later, the law that Congress is expected to enact.

May the CCPC, however, make this observation and suggestion:

The FOI ordinance MIGHT GIVE THE IMPRESSION THAT NO INFORMATION, PUBLIC DOCUMENT, OR PUBLIC RECORD CAN BE RELEASED by a department chief, head of office, or any other official WITHOUT THE REQUEST FILED AND THE PROCEDURE FOLLOWED.

While the right may be exercised by “every Filipino citizen,” it affects and involves more constantly and crucially the working press that depends on the flow of information for their work. The ordinance may hamper the work of media practitioners if public officials will interpret the paper work as requisite for release of information.

May we therefore suggest the inclusion of this provision as a possible second paragraph under section 7:

Nothing in these rules shall be interpreted to hinder regular flow of information, in such interactions between public officials and media as press conferences, publicity releases and interviews. Departments and offices, through their chiefs and heads, are encouraged to release on their own initiative information, documents and public records that are clearly of public interest and not covered by any of the exceptions.”

CCPC strongly recommends the use of the website of the local government for release of information, document or public record. Digital access will be speedy, no-hassle, with much less cost. The bureaucratic procedure should be required only for sensitive information that public officials tend to withhold.

“Unilateral and pro-active” FOI initiative, such as the website releases of public information, will affirm that the LGU is serious about its adherence to freedom of information, transparency and accountability.

Pachico A. Seares
Executive Director

Tags: Announcements · CCPC Papers and Resolutions