Guidelines set for right of access to information in Ilocos Norte

LAOAG CITY — Ilocos Norte’s provincial government has already set specific guidelines to allow every resident here to have access to information, official and public records, and documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions of local government offices and officials.

Under the Freedom of Information (FOI) ordinance approved by the Sanggunian Panlalawigan (provincial council) on Sept. 14, the Provincial Legal Officer has been tasked to prepare the necessary guidelines for the different provincial departments, offices and units, including barangay (village) governments to follow in determining which particular information, official or public record is not covered or needs a court order or approval before it can be released to the requesting party.

As a general rule, any person who requests for access to information shall submit a written request to the office concerned, clearly stating the purpose and specific description of the information requested, and provide valid identification, including address and contact number of the requesting party.

Failure to comply with the provisions of the ordinance shall subject the offender to a fine of PHP5,000 for first offense and imprisonment not exceeding six months for second offense or up to one year for third offense.

In the 16th Congress, the Senate passed the FOI measure in eight months, with Senator Grace Poe as sponsor.

Poe’s committee will lead the second public hearing on the FOI bill on Thursday, assuring the Senate’s commitment to fast-track the passage of the measure as a crucial tool in the fight against corruption.

The proposed FOI law opens government records to the public subject to reasonable exceptions. It covers all government agencies and instrumentalities, including the executive, legislative, judicial branches of government, local governments as well as government-owned and -controlled corporations and government financial institutions.