SC issues guidelines on SALN release

Purple S. Romero
The SC said the right to access of information is not absolute, hence the guidelines

MANILA, Philippines – After more than 20 years, the Supreme Court has allowed the disclosure not only of the wealth of all judges and justices in the judiciary, but also of their credentials and personal data sheets.

The SC made public on Wednesday, June 20, the guidelines for the release of the following public documents:

a. statement of assets, liabilities and net worth

b. curriculum vitae

c. personal data sheet or PDS (The PDS contains information on the judges’ and justices’ academic and professional background, as well as a list of pending administrative or criminal cases filed against them) 

In a resolution penned by Justice Jose Mendoza, the SC said requesting parties should observe these guidelines in requesting for the above documents: 

1. All requests shall be filed with the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan, the Court of Tax Appeals; for the lower courts, with the Office of the Court Administrator; and for attached agencies, with their respective heads of offices.

2. Requests shall cover only copies of the latest SALN, PDS and CV of the members, officials and employees of the judiciary.

Previous records could also be requested, however, if the reasons for such requests fit the considerations under Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

RA 6713 states that the request for information should not be for “any purpose contrary to morals or public policy,” or “any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.”

3. The Court en banc will decide on requests for copies of the SALN of justices from the SC, Court of Appeals, the Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals.  

4. Every request shall explain the requesting party’s specific purpose and their individual interests sought to be served, state the commitment that the request shall only be for the stated purpose, and shall be submitted in a duly accomplished request form secured from the SC website. The use of the information secured shall only be for the stated purpose.

5. In the case of requesting individuals other than members of the media, their interests should go beyond pure or mere curiosity.

6. In the case of the members of the media, the request shall additionally be supported by proof under oath of their media affiliation and by a similar certification of the accreditation of their respective organizations as legitimate media practitioners.

7. The requesting party, whether as individuals or as members of the media, must have no derogatory record of having misused any requested information previously furnished to them.

The SC said it consulted the Philippine Judges Association, the Metropolitan and City Judges Association of the Philippines, the Philippine Trial Judges League, the Philippine Women Judges Association, the CA, Sandiganbayan and CTA regarding the disclosure of the SALN, CV and PDS to the public.

They held the view that “while the Constitution holds dear the right of the people to have access to matters of concern, the Constitution also holds sacred the independence of the Judiciary. Thus, although no direct opposition to the disclosure of SALN and other personal documents is being expressed, it is the uniform position of the said magistrates and the various judges’ associations that the disclosure must be made in accord with the guidelines set by the Court and under such circumstances that would not undermine the independence of the Judiciary.”

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio proposed the disclosure of SALNs on June 13. The SC approved its release in a special en banc session on June 13.

The decision to release the judges’ and justices’ SALNs came in the aftermath of the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona on May 29 for his failure to declare that he has P183 million in peso and dollar bank deposits in his SALN. 

The judiciary did not release the SALNs of its officials before, citing a 1989 SC resolution which prohibited their release because litigants could use the information contained therein to harass judges and justices. –

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