Cebu Mayor signs freedom of information ordinance

PUBLIC ACCESS Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama signs the Freedom of Information Ordinance in his office at City Hall on Thursday. —PHOTO COURTESY OF CEBU CITY PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE

CEBU CITY – Mayor Michael Rama has signed City Ordinance No. 2657, also known as the Freedom of Information (FOI) Ordinance of 2019, which allows public access to records of transactions in this town.

Rama, who signed the measure on Thursday, said the approval of the FOI ordinance was timely since Cebuano journalists will be celebrating Press Freedom Week in September.

The FOI Order allows “access to information, official public records or documents and records relating to official acts, transactions and decisions, as well as government research data used as the basis for policy development under the guard of the city government”.

The move drew praise from the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC), a body made up of local media and civic leaders, praising city officials for passing the ordinance which provides for a mechanism for full disclosure and transparency. in the government offices here.

The freedom of information ordinance was another step toward institutionalizing access to information, the CCPC said in a statement.

“It has been a painfully slow schedule for FOI, hence the applause from the local media for every step taken on the road to greater access, which the order promises to provide, subject only to valid exceptions or limitations provided by the Constitution and statutes and ordinances,” said CCPC Attorney Pacheco Seares, CEO.

Legal presumption

“The CCPC hopes that the Freedom of Information Ordinance will serve its stated intent and purpose. Implementation problems cannot be excluded, but the mayor, by decree, or the municipal council, by amendment, will have the possibility and the means to resolve them. We have confidence in their sincere desire to make the order work,” Seares said.

The order aims to provide local counterpart in the enforcement of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 2, which he signed in July 2016, on full disclosure and transparency in government offices.

According to the FOI Order, there must be a legal presumption in favor of access to information, public documents or official documents.

No request for information, he said, will be denied unless it clearly falls within one of the exceptions, which city counsel has been instructed to submit to city council within 30 days. civilians from the date of entry into force of the ordinance, for its approval.

The ordinance required each department and city office to have an FOI Intake Officer who will receive, screen, and, upon approval of the department head, release necessary documents.

The office concerned should issue its decision to grant or deny a request for information within 15 working days, with an extension of 20 working days or more permitted where the information requested requires a thorough search of office records.

Violators would receive a reprimand for the first offense, a suspension of one to 30 days for the second offense and dismissal from service for the third offense.

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