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Only addresses should be hidden in SALNs – Civil Service Commission

MANILA, Philippines – An official of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) said only addresses should be shaded in government officials' Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs).

Lawyer Ariel Ronquillo, assistant commissioner for legal concerns, made this comment after Malacañang released SALNs of some Cabinet officials which contained redacted or blacked out portions. Among the concealed details were properties' locations and market value.

Malacañang, citing the Data Privacy Act, said it fears some people "may use the sensitive personal information and other data contained in the SALNs to harass people or commit fraud."

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella also earlier said that "those working in the government, such as members of the Cabinet, still have the right to privacy."

But Ronquillo countered this, saying the CSC maintains that officials' SALNs should not be covered by the Data Privacy Act. After all, Ronquillo said, SALNs serve as a "form of transparency."

Ronquillo is in charge of SALNs, according to CSC Chairperson Alicia dela Rosa-Bala.

"'Yun po yata 'yung naging interpretation nila do'n (That was how Malacañang interpreted the issue) because of the Data Privacy Act, although we have taken the position that [the] SALN should not be covered by that because SALN is a form of transparency," Ronquillo told reporters on Wednesday, September 27, on the sidelines of the confirmation hearing of a CSC official.

"So therefore dapat walang itinatago diyan. Dapat we are ready to show the people how we accumulate our wealth while we are working in the government. Para sa kaalaman ng lahat na hindi natin ginagamit 'yung ating position to unlawfully enrich ourselves," he added.

(So therefore we should not conceal details on our SALNs. We should be ready to show the people how we accumulate our wealth while we are working in the government. That's for everyone to know that we are not using our positions to unlawfully enrich ourselves.)

Ronquillo said CSC guidelines only allow the shading of the civil servant's address during the filing.

"Sa guidelines po na inisyu namin, ang puwede lang niya i-shade ay 'yung address ng filer. 'Yun lang po, the rest should be open to the public," he said.

(In the guidelines that we issued, the only thing that can be shaded on the SALN is the address of the filer. Only that, the rest should be open to the public.)

"'Yun pong pinakita kasi nilang sample, pati 'yung mga amount of properties saka location ng real properties nila ay shinade nila eh. Apparently that is not in accordance with the guidelines," he added.

(In the samples that were shown, even the properties' amounts and locations were shaded. Apparently that is not in accordance with the guidelines.)

But Ronquillo said an investigation is still needed to determine who redacted the information. If the issuing authority was the one who blacked out the data, Ronquillo said the concerned Cabinet official did not violate CSC guidelines. (READ: Trillanes wants Senate probe into hidden SALN data)

"Kailangang maimbestigahan kung sino ang nag-shade (We should investigate who shaded the information)... At this point, we can't make any conclusion without the conduct of any investigation," he said.

Asked if the CSC will probe the incident, Ronquillo said the agency's hands are tied, as they have no disciplinary jurisdiction over presidential appointees.

These officials are under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Ombudsman or the Office of the President, he added.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan has since said that details about an official's wealth will no longer be hidden in future SALN releases. – Rappler.com 

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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