PCOO, PGIN intensify FOI awareness among gov't, media, youth sectors


Apr. 07, 2017 ...

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) held a forum on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill on April 6 in a bid to strengthen awareness of the people's right to transparency on public matters from the government.

Partnering with the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte (PGIN), the forum gathered hundreds of participants from local government units (LGUs), national agencies, the media, campus journalists, and the youth sector in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) Session Hall.

The FOI Bill was signed into action through Executive Order No. 02, Series 2016, by President Rodrigo R. Duterte last July. It recognizes "the fundamental role of free and open exchange of information in a democracy" and through it the government aims to "enhance transparency and accountability in government official acts, transactions, or decisions."

While the Bill only covers the state's executive branch, it also encouraged LGUs to implement the same.

In September 2016, the Provincial Board or SP approved Provincial Ordinance No. 002-2016 or the "FOI Ordinance in the Province of Ilocos Norte," providing and implementing that the right of access to information is observed by all offices of PGIN including component cities and municipalities. The ordinance was spearheaded by SP Member Atty. Da Vinci M. Crisostomo.

Former SP Member Atty. Kristian R. Ablan, now assistant secretary for policy and legislative affairs of the PCOO, lauded Governor Imee R. Marcos for promoting transparent governance in Ilocos Norte and thanked PGIN for immediately adapting a local ordinance corresponding to the FOI Bill.

"It's consistent with the plans and programs of Governor Marcos in trying to have a transparent government, that's why we're very appreciative of the SP, headed by Vice Governor [Angelo Marcos] Barba for allowing us to discuss FOI to information officers, the media, and youth leaders," said Ablan.

He added, "We are encouraging other LGUs to pass their own FOI ordinances so they will be as transparent, accountable, and engaging to citizens as the national government."

In addition to official and public records, documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions and decisions, the FOI Bill also mandates sharing of government research data for use as basis in policy development. These include information on peace and order or school performance which would be useful even for Filipino families.

Ablan also shared that the PCOO organizes regular roadshows throughout the country in order to reach the grassroots, saying that the Office's presence on television, radio, print and social media is not enough.

"We have to be on ground," adding that the roadshows serve as a platform to discuss not only FOI but all projects of the Duterte administration.

PGIN had already launched information campaigns on the grassroots level in 2013 through a provincial newsletter, Dinnanggayan, which evolved into Paspas Dur-as! by its second issue.

A year later, a radio program of the same name was launched. Both provide news of provincial events, projects, and programs using the local language.

Similar to the PCOO's intermittent roadshows, the Governor Marcos initiated the Capitol Express in July 2013 as a roving one-stop shop bringing PGIN's services to far-flung barangays and informing residents of available programs.

Ablan lauded Ilocos Norte as "a leading example of local government units embracing freedom of information."