Cebu Citizens-Press Council

Being accountable comes with being free

CCPC asks governor, PB: Clarify rule on release of public documents to media

December 10th, 2015 · No Comments


WHEREAS, Cebu Provincial Administrator Mark Tolentino, in a memorandum dated Nov. 9, 2015, requires that (a) “request for information or production of records or documents” shall be in writing, (b) approval of the department head for such release shall also be in writing, and (c) release of any document shall be reported to the office of the governor;

WHEREAS, the said memo also reminds Capitol officials and employees concerned to comply with the procedure laid down in an Aug. 21, 2010 memo of then governor Gwen Garcia;

WHEREAS, amid the public noise created by the memo, including the publicized complaint of a radio broadcaster that his request for certain documents was rejected by the provincial administrator, Gov. Hilario Davide III said the memo is “merely protocol,” is not a gag order, and does not prevent the release of information from Capitol, stressing that his administration has always practiced transparency;

WHEREAS, the Tolentino memo, as worded, may confuse media practitioners regarding its enforcement and hamper, if not frustrate, their work of reporting and commenting on the news, for the following reasons:

[1] It does not state the reasons or grounds for withholding information or release of a document or record, thus giving the department head unrestricted discretion to withhold his approval and use the authority to hit back at journalists who displease them.

[2] It includes “request for information,” aside from “request for production of records or documents,” which might be interpreted to mean that the memo also applies to questions or interviews;

WHEREAS, it is the essence of the journalist’s work to obtain or verify, with the least delay, information of public interest, media material being highly perishable;

WHEREAS, the Tolentino memo tends to create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy as the provincial government can do without it, as demonstrated by almost three years of the Davide administration without any instrument for suppression;

WHEREAS, the reason given in public statements of the governor and the provincial administrator—namely, the fear that public document might be used to put public officials in a bad light—wouldn’t stand against the imperative of accountability and transparency;

NOW THEREFORE, on recommendation of Cebu Media Legal Aid (Cemla), the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC), in session assembled, hereby resolves that the Council:

[1] Request the Cebu Provincial Government, through the governor and the Provincial Board, to clarify its “protocol” on release of information and documents by stating in the memo the reasons or grounds for the department head concerned to withhold information and documents from the public; and

[2] Instruct or advise its department heads, preferably in the memo itself, (a) to enforce the “protocol” judiciously, applying it only for regulation, not prohibition or suppression, and (b) for public good, regardless of whether it’s also tainted with political or private interest.

APPROVED this 10th day of December, 2015 at the MBF Cebu Press Center, Cebu City, Philippines.

Tags: CCPC Papers and Resolutions · Cebu Media Legal Aid

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