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Dumaguete City, Philippines Saturday, July 30, 2016
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Remollo assures transparency,
welcomes Duterte's FOI order

Dumaguete Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo yesterday assured transparency in his administration as he welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte's signing of the Freedom of Information executive order.

Remollo, a lawyer, who supported Duterte's bid for the presidency, stressed that there should be guidelines in place to put in order the requests for and subsequent releases of government documents.

He said he welcomes and supports the FOI order of the President, saying, “there is nothing to hide”.

Even if the president did not yet pass the EO, Remollo said he had already planned to give instructions to department heads to be more accommodating to requests for public documents, with certain exceptions.

He said not all government documents are for public scrutiny, especially where national security is concerned, therefore, it is imperative to have the exceptions clearly stated.

The Department of Justice and the Office of the Secretary General are given 30 days from effectivity of the order to come up with a list of exceptions and submit it to the Office of the President, Remollo noted.

Duterte had signed the FOI executive order mandating full public disclosure of all offices under the executive branch but which also encouraged local government units “to observe and be guided by this order”.

The EO states that “all government offices under the executive branch, including but not limited to, the national government and all its offices, department, bureaus, offices and instrumentalities including government owned and controlled corporations, state universities and colleges”.

Covered by the order are “any records, documents, papers, reports, letters, contracts, minutes and transcripts of official meetings, maps, books, photos, data, research materials, films, sound and video recording (magnetic or other tapes), electronic data” and other materials recorded, stored or archived.

Meanwhile, a cross sector of the Dumaguete community issued their thoughts and sentiments on Duterte's FOI order.

Joel Obar, national chair of the Hugpong Federalismo, which pushes for the President's federalization program, described the executive order as “still insufficient but certainly a breakthrough”.

“Besides, the culture of secrecy in all branches and agencies of government is difficult to break with or without an FOI. Nonetheless, at least Digong displayed his transparency,” he added.

Obar said “persistence and continued vigilance of the people and media must be pursued; the executive FOI could be a weapon to pursue that purpose”.

The Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry “welcomes the historic and landmark EO on FOI as a breakthrough step in our advocacy and dream for full transparency and accountability in all government agencies,” its president, Ed Du, said.

“We believe the EO will make the Philippines more attractive to local and foreign investors who need accurate, updated and easy/free access to government data, especially socio-economic data,” Du added.

Carol Constantino, acting OIC of the Department of Foreign Affairs-Regional Consular Office in Dumaguete City, said the FOI may be used as a “springboard for the national identity card”.

“If government is required to be transparent, why can't everyone be transparent? Then we can dispense with the passport requirements,” she added.

Businesswoman Chari Katigbak said she wants to see the FOI passed in Congress.

She said she applauds the president's action on the FOI issue, describing it as “an example of what I expect from this administration - transparency and accountability from all government employees - elected, appointed and career employee”.

Mike Ramo, a news reporter and radio disc jockey, welcomed the FOI order, saying that it is a good start and that “executive is leading the way. When will the legislative follow suit?”

Dumaguete Press Club Inc. president, Juancho Gallarde, expressed optimism that with the FOI in place, it will make “our stories saleable and truthful in the sense that we will be able to (help) flush out wrongdoings in government”.

But he emphasized that the FOI ought to be legislated and in the meantime, the EO should be implemented ASAP, saying that the “bad or defective records might be doctored.”*JFP


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