IMPLEMENT the Freedom of Information (FOI) Ordinance immediately.
This was the call of Councilor Rey Gealon and the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) to the Cebu City Executive Department during the World Press Freedom Day Forum on Cebu City’s FOI ordinance on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, in Cebu City.
Gealon, the Council’s chairperson for the committee on laws, said he will file a resolution today, May 4, 2023, to urge the Office of the Mayor to designate Freedom of Information (FOI) receiving officers, who will implement the FOI ordinance.
The ordinance was signed into law by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama in July 2022, but issues were raised over its effectivity and function since there were no Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRRs) of the ordinance yet.
Gealon clarified that after consultation with the Secretariat of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP,) the FOI no longer needed an IRR for it to be fully effective.
He said the ordinance should be implemented immediately since it has been almost 10 months since the ordinance was signed.
However, the councilor notes that there are exceptions to the FOI forwarded by the City Legal Office (CLO), which was then noted by the SP.
The CLO has identified eight exemptions to the ordinance which include information covered by executive privilege; privileged information relating to national security, defense, or international relations; information concerning law enforcement and protection of public and personal safety; and information deemed confidential for the protection of privacy of certain individuals such as minors, victims of crimes or the accused.
The councilor said these exemptions will be incorporated in an amending ordinance after discussing that any pertinent provisions of the FOI should be included in the ordinance and not just noted by the SP.
Lawyer Pachico Seares, Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) executive director, said the FOI is essential since it affects not only the media but also other citizens.
The veteran journalist said that while they hope that the media can simply access public information without going through too many processes, the FOI will become a tool for journalists to get the necessary information for accurate reporting.
“We need this. If we don’t have to use it, the better. But when things get worse, we have something to use... If this would not be availed of the media, the better, parang pang emergency ito,” Seares said.
Gealon was invited to discuss the FOI as the chairman of the committee on laws, while lawyers, Eddie Barrita and Jose Marie Poblete, represented the Cebu Media Legal Aid (Cemla).
May 04, 2023
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