Laoag City council approves FOI ordinance

Denis Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2017 08:08 PM

LAOAG CITY - The City Council here unanimously approved on Monday an ordinance that operationalizes Freedom of Information in the city government, becoming the first city to pass such measure.

Ordinance no. 2017-23 or the Freedom of Information Ordinance of Laoag City authored by Councilor Roque "Rb" Ablan is intended to uphold the constitutional right of people to information on matters of public concern. 

It also hopes to serve as an important enabling mechanism to promote transparency in the local government of Laoag City, the official said.

"Naisipan ko gumawa ng ordinance, local version ng Freedom of Information, kasi nakikita ko na people nowadays, parang they have a lot of questions. So it's a good way for them to request for information and for them to know by themselves kung ano talaga ang nangyayari dito," said Ablan.

Because it was approved unanimously, it may not be vetoed by the city mayor.

Ablan is certain that the Provincial Board of Ilocos Norte would pass the ordinance as the board already passed its local version of Freedom of Information in September 2016, making it the first Philippine province to enact such a measure locally. 

Ablan admitted that the case of the missing P85-million city government funds was among reasons why the city council pushed for the ordinance. 

"We really want to pass this to remove the doubts of the people and to bring back the trust of the people to the officials of Laoag City," he said.

Had the freedom of information ordinance been passed years ago, the discrepancies could have been discovered earlier, he said.

"There is a possibility na nalaman natin yun kasi that issue started ata 2007. Siguro kung may Freedom of Information Ordinance na nung time na 'yun, may malaking chance na nalaman ng local government 'yung nangyari," he said.

Last April 6, Ablan's uncle, former Ilocos Norte Board Member Atty. Kris Ablan, who is now Assistant Secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office on Policy and Legislative Affairs, spearheaded fora on the Freedom of Information Bill around the country. He encouraged Local Government Units to pass their own FOI ordinances.

HOW TO REQUEST

Under the ordinance, those who wish to access information at City Hall should submit a letter of request in writing to the Local Chief Executive. 

The requesting person must state his or her full name and contact information, provide a valid copy of a government-issued identification car as proof of identity, and describe the information he or she is requesting, such as official or public records, documents pertaining to transactions, or government research data, subject to exceptions necessary to protect essential public or private interest.

The processing time is fifteen (15) working days. If the request is granted, the requesting person may expect to receive the documents either through regular mail or email, or be requested to collect the documents at the office where the request was made. 

Otherwise, the agency/office will have to explain why the request was delayed or denied. In some cases, the agency/office may need more time to review the request and thereby inform the requesting party of an extension in the processing period to up to twenty (20) working days.