Keeping secrets at the Bureau of Fire Protection
posted 10-Mar-2019  ·  
1,774 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

     Is the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), particularly the Virac Fire Station, keeping secrets from the public?

     This query begs to be asked in the light of the refusal of the Office of the Virac Fire Marshal to release their report on the recent fire that razed eight residential homes in Palnab, Virac.

     According to one senior fire officer who as on duty at the office, only the Courts can compel them to release information on the incident, even if the information being requested pertained only to the details related to the fire such as the time the fire was reported, the names of the victims, cost of damage and how the blaze was contained and declared fire out.

     Until now, the Virac Fire Station has not made any clarification on the matter. An inquiry with the Virac police station reveals that they did not have a report on the incident, although police officers were on the scene to maintain public order.

     In contrast, the Pandan police station had a report on an hour-long fire that gutted a house in barangay Libod last week, based on the investigation done by BFP personnel.

     The report stated that unattended, overcharged appliances caused the fire that damaged P300,000.00 worth of property owned by Susan Idusora in the morning of Feb. 28, 2019.

     Why the Virac Fire Station refused to release such similarly ordinary information is difficult to comprehend.

     A check with the BFP website shows that the agency is in compliance with the Freedom of Information guidelines issued by President Rodrigo Duterte through an Executive Order in 2016.

     This means the fire officials are likewise aware of the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 10173, or the Data Privacy Act of 2012 that safeguards personal data while ensuring the free flow of information for innovation, growth and national development.

     Surely, they must know that there are special cases where the Act and its IRR does not apply. In Section 5 (7b), the IRR states that it would not apply to “personal information processed for journalistic, artistic or literary purpose, in order to uphold freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, subject of requirements of other applicable law or regulations.”

     The fire officer on duty did not say whether the release of the information requested on the Palnab fire was covered by the requirements of other applicable laws or regulations. All he insisted on was that the BFP could not be compelled to release the information unless the Courts say so.

     So, is the Virac Fire Station now an intelligence entity of the government like the CIA of the Unites States or the FSB of Putin’s Russia?

     The earlier the office of the fire marshal clarifies this perception, the better. Unless, of course, it wants the Catanduanes public to see the image of BFP personnel skulking around homes to gather information on residents for whatever purpose it would serve the agency.

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