Open access to public information
While we do know about the respective orders issued by Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing and Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III to their department heads in relation to the Freedom of Information order issued by President Rodrigo Duterte, we do want to know the respective stances of both Cebu City Hall and the Lapu-Lapu City government on public access to information of their local governments’ transactions and operations.
In last Thursday’s Cebu Citizens Press Council quarterly meeting, the governor sought to assure media outlets about his administration’s readiness to be open and transparent to the public and to them.
But this change didn’t come overnight though the governor was quick to admit that his latest order implementing Freedom of Information on the Capitol’s transactions, projects and operations was in support of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Freedom of Information order on the executive department.
Last year, media outlets were surprised when the Davide administration reinforced a 2010 memorandum issued by the governor’s predecessor, former governor and now Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu’s 3rd district, requiring a letter of request for any documents from the governor’s office.
Though the Provincial Information Office explained that the memo wasn’t a “gag order,” there were instances when media practitioners were reminded to write a letter of request for documents at the Capitol.
Then again, the memo was implemented as the Davide administration was facing criticism from then gubernatorial opponent Winston Garcia, who took potshots at the governor for failing to upgrade the province’s hospitals and the questionable bidding of heavy equipment, among other issues.
Whether the governor’s order can ensure an open and transparent Capitol will have to be seen in the next three years especially in the third and final year before reelection when the next political opponent will research for any flaws or shortcomings committed by Davide’s administration by then.
A similar situation is in place at Mandaue City Hall with Mayor Luigi Quisumbing requiring department heads to coordinate with the City Information Office before allowing themselves to be interviewed by the media outlets.
While we do understand his administration’s concern for coordination among department agencies for a uniform response to any question concerning public interest, the policy had discouraged department heads from granting interviews which run contrary to the national government’s efforts at transparency.
We hope Mayor Quisumbing reconsiders and adopts a more open, flexible policy in keeping with the renewed push to make the government transparent, responsive and accountable to the people.
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