Edu Rama to push for approval of FOI ordinance before term ends

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CEBU City South District Representative-elect and outgoing City Councilor Eduardo “Edu” Rama Jr. assured members of the press that he will push for the approval of the Freedom of Information (FOI) ordinance before his term ends on June 30, 2022.

This after the Cebu Citizens-Press Council (CCPC) appealed to the Cebu City Council, through Rama, to finish its work on the proposed ordinance.

The proposed ordinance seeks to provide a “local mechanism” in the enforcement of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 2 of July 23, 2016, on full disclosure and transparency in government offices.

Rama told SunStar Cebu Thursday, June 2, that the delay in the passing of the ordinance can be attributed to the subsequent changes in the leadership in the Cebu City Legal Office (CLO).

Rama said the requested legal opinion to answer some concerns about the ordinance has not been provided by the CLO.

The proposed ordinance went through the processes of legislation, mostly way back in the last quarter of 2019, such as committee review, public hearing, and en banc discussion.

In addition, Rama attended a CCPC dialogue with Cebu news media. The proposed ordinance was in the agenda for third reading, after which it would’ve gone to the city mayor for approval.

The series of crises, including the Covid-19 pandemic, that struck the city could have interrupted work on the ordinance.

In its statement, CCPC raised only two major concerns, which the Press Council asks the Sanggunian to consider before final action:

(1) Formal request for a document shall be required only when it is considered an exception by City Hall but disputed by the requesting party. In other words, the FOI ordinance shall not delay release of information otherwise readily available. In fact, as a best practice, a document in which the public clearly has the right to know and is not an exception shall be unilaterally released through the City PIO’s (Public Information Office) news outlets. Quick access is crucial to news media.

(2) The City Hall list of exceptions shall not include an exception not provided by the president’s executive order or national law. CCPC is pleased to note that the proposed city ordinance includes the provision (Section 8), namely, that the exceptions “must be enshrined in the Constitution, existing laws or jurisprudence.” Rama assured that even without the legal opinion, he will try his best to convince his colleagues in the council to pass the ordinance since this will be good for the city.

Should his efforts fail, Rama said that he is sure that another councilor from the incoming Cebu City Council will sponsor the ordinance and move for its approval.

“I am sure (incoming councilors will adopt) because this (would be) a landmark ordinance for Cebu City,” said Rama.

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