Bohol provincial government oks own FOI law
Angeline Valencia (The Freeman) - August 12, 2018 - 12:00am

TAGBILARAN CITY, Philippines — Bohol could be the first province to have an ordinance implementing freedom of Information in the provincial government.

This Bohol Freedom of Information Ordinance was sponsored by Provincial Board Members Tomas Abapo Jr. and Ricky Masamayor, and signed into law by Governor Edgar Chatto on July 31.

Abapo pushed for the provincial freedom of information law, considering that the Executive Order on FOI issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 23, 2016 is limited to government offices under the Executive Branch only, but it encourages local government units to observe and be guided accordingly.

“Recognizing the importance of the people’s right to government information, and guided by the president’s EO, the provincial government deems it necessary to provide a local mechanism for its offices where the people’s right to information is respected and upheld,” subject to exceptions provided by law and jurisprudence, said Abapo.

Section 4 of the ordinance, covering all provincial government offices, provides that “every Filipino shall have access to information, official records, public records and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, and government research data used as basis for policy development …”

Section 5 provides for the exceptions, stating that “FOI shall be denied when the information falls under any of the exceptions enshrined in the Constitution, existing law, or jurisprudence.

Section 6 mandates all officials of Bohol provincial government to file and make available for public scrutiny their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Section 7 provides that “no request for information shall be denied unless it clearly falls under any of the exceptions in the inventory of FOI exceptions.” It added however that the denial shall not be intended to purposely cover up crime, wrongdoing, graft or corruption.

A People’s FOI Manual of the provincial government will be prepared within 120 calendar days from the date of effectivity of the ordinance, subject to the approval by the PB.

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