BAGUIO CITY – The City Council approved on first reading a proposed ordinance operationalizing the freedom of information in the city government and providing guidelines for its sustainable implementation.
The ordinance authored by Councilor Maria Mylen Victoria G. Yaranon states that the freedom of information shall cover all government offices under the city government wherein every Filipino shall have access to information, official records, public records and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, in the custody of the city government or any of its offices.
However, the ordinance points out that access to information shall be denied when the information falls under any of the exemptions enshrined in the Constitution, existing laws, rules, regulations and jurisprudence.
The ordinance mandates the City Legal Officer to prepare a local inventory of FOI exemptions and submit the same to the City Council within 30 calendar days from the date of the effectivity of the measure, for its approval, among other appropriate actions required for the purpose.
Further, the Secretary to the Sanggunian shall cause the publication of the local inventory of FOI exemptions for the guidance of all government offices covered by the proposed measure and the FOI exemptions shall be periodically updated by the City Legal Officer and the City Council.
The ordinance stipulates that subject to the provisions of the measure, all public officials of the local government are reminded of their obligation to file and make available for scrutiny their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) pursuant to existing laws, rules and regulations in the spirit and the letter of the ordinance.
According to the proposal, there shall be a legal presumption in favour of access to information, public records and official records and that no request for information shall be denied unless it clearly falls under any of the exemptions in the inventory of FOI exemptions.
Moreover, the local government shall adopt the disclose-to-one, disclose-to-all policy for the information requested through the pending measure and shall exercise proactive disclosure of information not subject to the exemptions.
The determination of the applicability of any of the exemptions to the request shall be the responsibility of the head of office, which is in custody of the information, public record or official record, or the responsible city or field officer duly or designated by him or her in writing.
While providing access to information, the ordinance states public records and official records, responsible officials shall afford full protection to the right to privacy of the individual, pursuant to the Data Privacy Act of 2012.
The ordinance asserts local government offices shall not charge any fee for accepting requests for access to information and that there shall be no charge for obtaining information in digital format but there shall be fees be charged for printing, photocopying and certification services rendered for the said purpose.
By Dexter A. See