PCOO, DILG issue circular on FOI compliance; all LGUs covered

MANILA Filipinos will have access to information on government transactions and operations from their provincial, city, and municipal offices.

This, after the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) that provides guidelines and mechanisms for operationalizing the national Freedom of Information (FOI) Program down to the local level.

The PCOO-DILG JMC 2018-01 or Reiteration of Executive Order No. 2, S. 2016, 'Operationalizing the People's Right to Information and the State Policies off Full Public Disclosure and Transparency in the Public Service' was finalized by PCOO Secretary Jose Martin M. Andanar and DILG Officer-in-Charge Eduardo M. AAo on October 9 and takes effect immediately.

AAo, in his speech at the launch of the DILG's Bantay-Korapsyon campaign at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Quezon City on Oct. 3, said the JMC will "encourage LGUs to enact an ordinance or issue a local chief executive's order in support of Freedom of Information," as well as " operationalize at their level the Constitutional provisions on public disclosure of state transactions involving public interest and the right of the people to information on matters of public concern."

He added that "the PCOO's electronic FOI platform where the public can request for government information will also be opened to interested LGUs an initiative that will make local information more accessible to people."

DILG Undersecretary for Operations Epimaco V. Densing expressed the possibility of including local government compliance to the JMC "as one of the criteria of the Department's (DILG's) Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG)."

He encouraged local government units to issue their respective FOI ordinances if they want to be an awardee of SGLG.

As the lead agency in overseeing the implementation of the FOI Program, the PCOO has been actively encouraging Local Government Units (LGUs) and offices outside the Executive Branch to observe and be guided by the provisions of Executive Order No. 2 (EO 2), s. 2016, even prior to the issuance of the JMC.

To date, five LGUs have already submitted their local FOI Ordinances, and eight more have pledged to follow suit.

The issuance of the JMC encourages transparency and accountability in governance, and inclusivity and engagement of stakeholders at the local level. PCOO assures its commitment to provide assistance and guidance to LGUs as they roll out the Freedom of Information Program within their jurisdiction and strengthen the constitutional mandate of right to information.

A citizen's right to information is a guaranteed universal freedom as declared by the United Nations. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which states that the fundamental right of freedom of expression encompasses the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Every 28 September, UNESCO's International Day for the Universal Access to Information (also known as Access to Information Day) is being celebrated as a fundamental right.

The current administration issued EO 2 of 2016 and made FOI a priority program.

EO 2 of 2016 covers all national government agencies, government corporations, water districts, and state universities; while PCOO-DILG's JMC includes all provincial, city, and municipal governments. As of date, the FOI Bill is pending in Congress but is expected to be passed to cover all of government, including the legislative and judicial branches.

A copy of the signed JMC can be downloaded from https://goo.gl/7dAK2p.

The Freedom of Information - Project Management Office (FOI-PMO) of PCOO is currently capacitating LGU officials and personnel in granting and processing of requests by citizens for information held by local governments. Requests for information may be in standard (paper-based) or electronic form.

LGUs requesting for FOI workshops may contact FOI-PMO through 632-588-0691, inquiry@foi.gov.ph, or facebook.com/foiph. (PCOO FOI-PMO)

Source: Philippine News Agency