Still withholding SALN, Martires says PCIJ violated wiretapping law

Lian Buan
Still withholding SALN, Martires says PCIJ violated wiretapping law
Ombudsman Samuel Martires says he has a duty to protect the interest of public officials. It's now a stalemate since Malacañang is passing the buck to him to release Duterte's Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

MANILA, Philippines – In a continuing stalemate over who would release President Rodrigo Duterte’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), Ombudsman Samuel Martires blasted the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) for its report over the Office of the Ombudsman’s refusal to publicize SALNs.

PCIJ, in a report written by veteran journalist Malou Mangahas, said Martires’ refusal to release officials’ SALNs would be the first time in 30 years that “a President has not released his or her SALN.”

Mangahas quoted some candid comments from Martires during a conversation at an Ombudsman event on December 9, which the Ombudsman said was recorded without his consent.

“Sa ganang akin, hindi lamang niya nilapastangan ang aking pagkatao ngunit nilabag pa niya ang anti-wiretapping law,” said Martires.

(For me, she did not only disrespect me but she also violated the anti-wiretapping law.)

Martires said Mangahas introduced herself as a reporter for GMA.

Mangahas is the host of GMA News TV program Investigative Documentaries, as well as PCIJ Executive Director.

 

So who will release SALN?

In his strongly worded statement, Martires said that while he understands the right of the public to information, he also has the duty to protect the interest of officials.

“May tungkulin din ako na dapat gampanan at ito ay pangalagaan ang mga karapatan at kapakanan ng mga kawani at opisyal ng pamahalaan alinsunod sa nakasaad sa Implementing Rules and Regulations ng Republic Act 6713,” said Martires.

(I have a duty to serve and this is to protect the interests of government personnel and officials according to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 6713.)

Martires did not cite the specific provision. We have asked for a follow-up.

RA 6713, or the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, allows journalists to obtain copies of SALNs and report on them. Section 7 (D) of the code prohibits the use of any statement made in the SALN for commercial purposes “other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.”

Section 7, Article III of the Constitution says: “Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”

Rappler cited these laws when we sent a request for the SALNs, but we were told through a letter in May that the Office of the Ombudsman was crafting “revision of guidelines on public access of Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) and Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections.”

Martires also did not address a previous statement by Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that it’s the Office of the Ombudsman who should release Duterte’s SALN.

Martires has released a summary of his own SALN. Ordinarily, the Office of the Ombudsman releases the SALNs of the President, the Vice President, Ombudsman and other officials of the office, and heads of other constitutional bodies.

Reacting to the reports on his 2018 SALN summary, which showed a P15 million growth that year, Martires said at a public event on July 25 that he mulled filing libel cases from courts “in Samar down to Luzon “para paikutin ang tumbong ng editor na ‘yun.”

“Pero kailangan kong magpakita ng ehemplo na ang iyong Ombudsman hindi negatibo,” Martires had said.

Under Martires, the Office of the Ombudsman has restricted media access to resolutions and filings. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.