CEBU City Mayor Michael Rama called on the 21 department heads of City Hall to be accessible.
The mayor also made clear that there is no gag order against the department heads and offices.
The Cebu Citizens’ Press Council (CCPC) invited the mayor to its quarterly meeting yesterday to improve media coverage at City Hall.
CCPC organized the activity after the mayor called the attention of the journalists covering the City Government last February over “erroneous” reporting.
One of the concerns raised by City Hall Association of Reporters in Media (Charm) president Chris Ligan during the dialogue was of department heads not answering calls or text messages.
The mayor said department heads should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week like him.
“That has been my position all the time. If you want to be a public servant and you work at City Hall, I have been telling clearly, it is a 24/7 job. With the departments, I will again, through PIO (Public Information Office), remind them to be accessible,” he said.
Access to documents
Ligan also raised the problem of accessing documents in some departments, since they require the media to submit letter-requests first.
The mayor said he is encouraging department heads to release documents if they have already been tackled and “thoroughly ventilated.”
However, he asks the media to follow and comply with protocol, especially on issues that are very technical or may result to legal battles.
“There is always such a thing as case-to-case basis. The general rule is judgment call (of the department head),” he added.
Charm members’ other concerns were City Hall employees acting more superior than department heads, department heads who don’t answer questions clearly and the late delivery of PIO media advisories.
Meanwhile, the mayor said any request from City Council for department heads to appear before the body should go through him first to protect officials of the executive department.
No to persecution
He said he doesn’t want the department heads to be cross-examined before the legislative body or humiliated or destroyed.
“Appearance before the council should not be in aid of persecution, grandstanding, destruction, in aid of election. It should always be in aid for a legislation that they will formulate,” he said.
As for the mayor’s concerns to the media, Rama saw the need for more investigative journalism to expose anomalies or bad practices in government.
He also asked members of the media to respect offices.
“Some reporters have the gall to go straight to your table and dig through what is in your table. I wish that should no longer happen because that means going beyond what is ought to be,” he said.
Rama also said that if issues against the City are given prominence, their answers should get the same treatment.
“Kung naa miy maayo gibuhat, dayga pod tawon mi (The media should also highlight the good my administration does),” he said.
Lastly, the mayor asked the media to practice responsible journalism by writing what’s true and correct.
“I will never disagree if you (media) make a criticism but I will always make a stand if criticisms are filled with lies,” he said.