Cebu City Legal Office says: ‘OBO documents are public records’
CEBU CITY, Philippines—The Cebu City Legal Office advised the Office of the Building Official (OBO) that the documents pertaining to inspection reports, notices of illegal construction, and letter of complaints should be made available to the public unless they fall under certain exemptions under the law.
In a letter to Architect Florante Catalan dated August 8, 2019, the City Legal Officer Rey Gealon, said the documents are treated as public due to the nature of the OBO’s function as a enforcer of the National Building Code and issuance of licenses and permits.
“Considering that they partake of public documents, in compliance of the National Building Code, they may be released to the public henceforth,” Gealon wrote.
Exemptions would include information pertaining to national security, protected by executive privileges, enforcement of the law, and other documents deemed confidential.
Recently, Gealon said requests were made for copies of documents submitted to OBO.
He said OBO sought for legal opinion on whether the public can access these documents.
“Pursuant to the directive of the Mayor (Edgardo Labella), the public must have access to information, especially those of the nature of public documents. Transparency and accountability being the hallmarks of this administration,” said Gealon.
The public may access certain documents, unless they fall under the exemptions, of which the head of office is designated to determine the applicability of these exemptions to certain documents.
Gealon reminded the OBO that request for a public document should not be denied expecially if the denial of the request is made to cover up a crime, graft and corruption or any wrongdoing.
Although requesting for the document is free, the public will have to pay a certain amount if they want to get a copy of these documents, as determined by the OBO, as a reimbursement of the costs in reproducing these documents.
As of press time, Catalan has not responded to inquiries on the possible amount of fees the OBO my ask from the people requesting copies of public documents.
Gealon said the public may access documents from OBO with a letter of request, provided the documents are not confidential and protected by law. / celr
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