LGUs urged to pass Freedom of Information ordinance

LAOAG CITY -— Representatives of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) are in Laoag City Thursday to discuss the salient features of the Freedom of Information Order signed by President Rodrigo Duterte to promote transparency and accountability in public service.

Encouraging all local government units here to pass a related ordinance in support to the President’s FOI Executive Order No. 02 series of 2016, Atty. Kristian Ablan in his capacity as Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary, said the EO is limited to the executive branch only, hence the need to engage LGUs to support this move.

Ilocos Norte is among the country’s pioneering provinces and Laoag City, among the cities, to pass an FOI ordinance. Some officials and residents, however are not yet fully aware of this particularly on the specific guidelines for the right of access to information.

According to Ablan, the FOI is not merely intended for the media but also for ordinary civilians and the marginalized sector.

“FOI is for everyone like the poor and marginalized. It is not only for media. And as the communication arm of the government, we are tasked to implement the FOI program,” said Ablan as he underscored that regardless of one’s rank, it shall only take 15 days to act upon request for access to public information.

Attended by LGU information officers, youth leaders and media, the FOI forum was held at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Session Hall on Thursday where Ablan specifically discussed the importance of FOI to have a well-informed citizenry and for them to make better decisions. Several exemptions in implementing the FOI program were also explained to participants.

Under the FOI ordinance approved by the Sanggunian Panlalawigan on September 14, 2016, the Provincial Legal Officer have yet to finalize the implementing rules and regulations to follow in determining a particular information, official or public record which can be released to the public.

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, provide valid identification including address and contact number of the requesting party.

Failure to comply with the provisions of the said ordinance shall subject the offender to a fine of Php 5,000 for first offense and imprisonment not to exceed six months for second offense or up to one year for third offense. Leilanie G. Adriano/PNA-northboundasia.com