MANILA, Philippines – Amid calls for greater transparency in the judiciary, Justices of the Court of Appeals maintained that the rule barring the disclosure of wealth of justices should stay–unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise.
Further, CA justices from Cagayan de Oro said that the judiciary should oppose any legislative measure mandating employees and officers of the judiciary to file their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) with the Office of the Ombudsman.
No to public disclosure
In a letter to CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes, Justice Romulo Borja, Executive Justice of the Court of Appeals for the Cagayan de Oro area, noted that if this happens, the Ombudsman would then have the power to release copies of their SALN to the public upon request.
Justices of the SC, the CA, Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals currently file their SALN with the Supreme Court Clerk of Court while trial court judges file theirs at office of the Supreme Court Administrator.
The FOI bill, which is pending at the lower house, carries penalties for non-disclosure of public documents. The SALN is a public record.
CA justices from Cagayan de Oro agreed that the SC resolution restricting the release of the justices’ SALN to the public should be retained.
The whole appellate court – which covers stations from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao – adopted a similar stand.
Civil society pressure
Earlier, civil society and media organizations, including Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria, have requested for copies of the SALN of SC justices.
The requests prompted the High Court to re-evaluate its current guidelines.
The SC then asked appellate courts such as the CA, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals and also judges’ associations to file their respective comments.
In its compliance submitted to the SC on February 13, CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes said that the magistrates reached a consensus that the appellate court should “adhere” to the SC en banc resolution dated May 2, 1989, which made the release of the SALN conditional.
The SC promulgated the 1989 resolution after a litigant, lawyer Jose Alejandrino, requested for copies of the SALN of Justices Andres Narvasa, Emilio Gancayco, Abdulwahid Bidin, Isagani Cruz, Abraham Sarmiento, Irene Cortes, Carolina Griño-Aquino, Leo Medialdea and Florenz Regalado.
The SC said that copies of the SALN may be released, but only for “legitimate” reasons as a requesting party may be on a “fishing expedition” to harass justices.
Even before the SC en banc made a final ruling on the issue, the public has already been provided a sneak preview of the wealth disclosures of some of the justices.
Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Lourdes Sereno released summaries of their SALN for 2009 and 2010, while Justice Martin Villarama also released a copy of his full 2011 SALN.
At the trial on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona, SC Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal invoked the 1989 resolution when she was asked to submit copies of the SALN of Chief Justice Renato Corona to the impeachment court.
One of the allegations raised against Corona is non-disclosure of his SALN.
Vidal was eventually prevailed upon to turned over Corona’s SALN from 2002-2011 to the impeachment court. – Rappler.com