FOI pushed for transparency


Officials of the city government of Dumaguete have supported the localization of the Freedom of Information (FOI) to foster transparency and accountability in governance.

Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo and Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) Dumaguete chapter president Dionie Amores agreed that FOI is a tool for good governance as it provides people with access to important government information.

Remollo stressed the relevance of FOI at a time when disinformation is rampant.

“We need the government to counter the fake news and the government itself will be aggressive in giving the right information to our people,” Remollo said.

On the other hand, Amores emphasized how important transparency is when it comes to governance.

He said localizing FOI mechanisms would help the local government unit (LGU) become more accountable to its people and improve the quality of leadership in the city.

Amores also announced that the Liga ng mga Barangay Dumaguete Chapter has come up with a web portal in support of the transparency initiatives of the city government.

“The Liga ng mga Barangay Dumaguete Chapter created a web portal for our transparency. Everything under the sun will be posted in our web portal,” Amores said.

Both officials were present during the FOI Transparency Roadshow held at the Negros Oriental State University (NOrSU) gymnasium recently where they addressed several barangay officials and students who joined the activity.

The Philippine Information Agency together with the FOI Program Management Office (PMO) organized the activity to push for the localization of FOI mechanisms.

This is the first FOI Transparency Roadshow to be carried out across the country for this year. 

FOI PMO Deputy Division Chief John Wilmer Jimenez said the FOI is not just a tool for transparency, but also a mechanism to build trust between government agencies and the people by granting the latter access to information.

“Karapatan niyo pong magtanong sa inyong gobyerno. Karapatan ninyo kumalap ng impormasyon sa inyong government agencies because that is your basic human right (Part of your basic human rights is to ask the government and gather information from government agencies).  Access to information is there for you to access government-held information, data, or statistics. With that, your participation in the government affairs will be more meaningful,” Jimenez said.

He added that the said program is consistent with every Filipino’s freedom of expression and a person must have the right information to express sound opinion.  

Individuals are granted access to updates on the status and statistics of government programs, official documents, records, papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, decisions, and government research data subject to pertinent governing laws.  

Jimenez also oriented barangay officials and students attending the activity on how to make an FOI request through manual or digital process using the Electronic FOI (E-FOI) web portal.

The FOI PMO also invited representatives from the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology, and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to share their best practices and experience in adopting FOI mechanisms.

DPWH OIC-Chief of the Stakeholders Affairs Division, Stakeholders Relations Service Andro Santiago said that institutionalizing FOI has helped the agency garner high trust ratings from the public based on surveys conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS).

“It was in 2017 when we started to enroll with the E-FOI program. From 58 percent public performance rating in 2017, ngayon po nasa 75 percent na po ang performance and trust rating ng public sa DPWH. Significantly po, tumaas ang tiwala ng mamamayan compared noong hindi kami nakikipag-engage sa people,” he said.

Part of the information they disclosed to the public are the status of road works, location, and the district office in-charge of the project.

“The citizenry can be the most effective partner for transparency and effective governance. Once na-establish mo yun, nararamdaman nila na you care for them,” he added. 

The FOI PMO hopes that this initiative will be operationalized and institutionalized by other government agencies in the province.

So far, there are 64 LGUs, state colleges, and universities across the country with their own localized FOI initiatives. – NWI