The Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) applauds the signing of the Freedom of Information (FOI) ordinance by Cebu City Mayor Michael “Mike” Rama.
Last June 1, CCPC appealed to the City Council “to finish its work” on the ordinance before the term of the 15th Sangguniang Panlungsod was to end last June 30. And the City Council did, with councilor, now Congressman, Eduardo “Edu” Rama Jr. as principal author. And on July 28, Mayor Rama signed Ordinance 2657 into law.
The new ordinance is similar to the Ordinance 3273, authored by then councilor Jose Daluz III, which the 14th Sanggunian passed but Mayor Rama’s predecessor vetoed in 2017.
It is another step toward institutionalizing access to information, which started with President Duterte’s executive order of July 23, 2016 that “operationalized” access to information in the executive branch. The City ordinance seeks to provide the local mechanism for Cebu City Government offices “where the people’s right to information is upheld.”
It has been a painfully slow program for FOI, thus the local media’s applause for each step taken on the road to better access, which the ordinance promises to provide, subject only to valid exceptions or limitations provided by the Constitution and laws and ordinances.
QUALIFIER. CCPC notes though that the approved ordinance does not include the qualifier that the Press Council had proposed in its appearance before the City Council and dialogue with then councilor Edu Rama and in published statements, namely: That the procedure shall not mean that Cebu City Government offices and their officials will require release of information, verbally or in a document, to go through the procedure prescribed in the ordinance. The FOI ordinance shall not do away with routine flow of news and information through press briefings, conferences and news releases. The city administration shall even encourage unilateral release of documents in hard copy or through emails and digital news sites, as long as they don’t fall under the exceptions listed under the ordinance.
CCPC hopes to see the FOI ordinance serve its avowed intent and purpose. We cannot rule out problems in implementation but the mayor, by executive order, or the City Council, by amendment, will have the option and means to solve them. We trust in their genuine wish to make the ordinance work.