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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -Three-term boardmember Robert Namoro underscored the importance of the provincial government having the required freedom of information (FOI) ordinance as its guidepost in rolling out transparent and accountable governance for the benefit of information sharing.
Namoro is the principal author of Ordinance No. 18-234 which operationalized the FOI in the provincial government and providing guidelines for its implementation.
Under the said ordinance, every resident of Benguet shall have access to information, official or public records and to documents or papers pertinent to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development in the custody of the provincial government or any of its offices.
However, the request to access to information of records or documents shall be denied when the information is covered by the communication privilege of the chief executive; when the privilege information relates to internal relations and security of the province as determined by the police and other military agencies; information concerning law enforcement and protection of public and private personal safety; information deemed confidential for the protection of individual’s privacy, such as minors, victims of crimes, or the accused and privilege communications and legal proceedings as determined by law or by the rules of court; information, documents or records known by reason of official functions or capacity and are deemed as confidential, including those submitted or disclosed by entities to government agencies, tribunals, boards, or officers in relation to the performance of their functions, or to inquiries or investigations conducted by them in the exercise of their administrative, regulatory, or quasi-judicial powers; pre-judicial, premature disclosure of information or documents; records of proceedings or information from proceedings which, pursuant to law, or relevant rules and regulations that are treated as confidential or privileged and such other information as may be declared privileged or confidential by local laws, rules or regulations.
The ordinance stated that there shall be a legal presumption in favor of the access of information of public or official records and no request for information shall be denied unless it clearly falls under any of the aforesaid exemptions. The determination of the applicability of any of the exemptions to the request shall be the responsibility of the head of the office who has custody or control of the information, public or official records, or the responsible provincial or field officer duly designated by him in writing. In making such determination, the head of the office or his designated officer shall exercise reasonable diligence to ensure that no exception shall be used or availed of to deny any request for information or access to public or official records.
The ordinance stipulated that failure of any government officer or employee to comply with the pertinent provisions of the measure shall be grounds for reprimand for the first offense; suspension of 1-30 days for the second offense and dismissal from the service for the third offense.
Subject to existing laws, rules, and regulations, government offices shall create or maintain accurate and reasonably complete records of important information in appropriate formats and implement a record management system that facilitates easy identification, retrieval and communication of information to the public. By HENT