By Angel Castillo
TWO Baguio city councilors are batting for the operationalization of freedom of information (FOI) in the city.
Councilors Benny Bomogao and Mylen Victoria Yaranon have proposed an ordinance, passed on first reading, that would allow citizens to have access to information, official records, public records, and all documents pertaining to official acts, transactions, decisions, and government research data used as basis for policy development that are in the custody of the city government or any of its offices.
Under the ordinance, the city is to establish a legal presumption in favor of access to information. Documents and information will only be inaccessible under existing exceptions in the Constitution, existing laws, or other jurisprudence. Due diligence is also expected to ensure that exceptions as such will not be used to cover up wrongdoings, crimes, graft and corruption.
Once enacted, Baguio government officials will be mandated to make publicly available their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN)s.
The ordinance also mandates that public officials protect personal information of others in their custody in compliance with the Data Privacy Act of 2022.
Requests for FOI are to be channeled via writing to the Public Information Office (PIO), which will then assist or deny in writing the request. There will be no fees for the requests themselves.
Any public official that fails to comply with the ordinance will be subject to penalties – reprimanded for the first offense, suspended for a period between one to 30 days for the second offense, and dismissed from service for the third offense.