With the Freedom of Information (FOI) fully working at the national level, it is now the turn of local government units (LGUs) to adopt a system of giving the public access to information at the local level.
To help realize this, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) issued a joint memorandum circular encouraging local government units to operationalize the people's right to information and state policies of full public disclosure and transparency in the public service by enacting an ordinance or issuing a local chief executive’s order on Freedom of Information (FOI).
DILG OIC-Secretary Eduardo M. Año says that the DILG shares the vision of President Rodrigo R. Duterte and PCOO for transparency in public service as this will help curtail incidences of corruption in the LGUs.
"Let us be a part of the movement to eliminate corruption at the local level. Freedom to access information in the LGUs is freedom from corruption," says Año.
Año explains that with the disclosure of information concerning the undertakings of the local government, a potent check and balance system can be established, hence, empowering the people and promoting participatory governance.
"If a local government has nothing to hide, opening up local information for public consumption would not be an issue," he adds.
FOI gives access to information, official records, public records and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development.
The FOI Executive Order was the first EO signed by President Duterte as soon as he assumed office in July 2016.
In the said joint memorandum signed by DILG OIC-Secretary Año and PCOO Sec. Martin M. Andanar, LCEs are encouraged to enact an ordinance or an executive order containing the salient provisions of Executive Order No. 2, s. 2016.
Such ordinance or local executive order may contain procedures in filing and processing of requests for access to information; inventory of exceptions; remedies in case of denial of request; fees; protection of privacy; and keeping of records, among others.
According to Año, the joint memorandum also states that LGUs are encouraged to adopt the "disclose to one, disclose to all" policy for the information released through the observance of FOI and exercise proactive disclosure of information not included in their inventory of exceptions.
LCEs are also reminded of their responsibility to file and make available for scrutiny, their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth in accordance with the laws, rules, and regulations.
"Napakahalaga po na positibong tumugon at mapairal sa mga pamahalaang lokal ang FOI sapagkat magkakaroon na po tayo ng pagkakataon na mabantayan ang kaban ng bayan at masusubaybayan ang yaman ng ating mga opisyal," he says.
He also mentions that the LGUs are encouraged to enroll in PCOO's electronic FOI platform at www.foi.gov.ph to ensure that the public will have ease and convenience in requesting for information.
DILG's Bureau of Local Government Supervision will monitor FOI-compliant LGUs that have enacted FOI ordinances or local executive orders.