Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s vow of transparency, Malacañang on Monday, October 19, left to the Office of Ombudsman the decision on whether or not to release to the public the Chief Executive’s Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs).
“We leave that to the Office of the Ombudsman which is a constitutional body tasked with implementation of our laws relating to public officers,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters during a virtual press briefing.
Roque had been asked to state categorically whether or not Malacañang would share Duterte’s SALNs, which have remained a secret since 2018.
Roque’s latest remarks are a departure from previous statements made on the issue last September, when he said he was not sure if Duterte would proactively release these two SALNs to the media or the public.
At the time, Roque said he would ask the Office of the Executive Secretary if the President’s SALNs will be released since “whether or not it will be made public is outside of the jurisdiction of my office.”
Under the Ombudsman’s new rules on SALNs, only 3 types of persons can receive a copy of officials’ SALNs:
- The official who filed the SALN or a duly authorized representative
- A requester acting on a court order in relation to a pending case
- The Office of the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office for the purpose of conducting fact-finding investigation
This means that the public and media can only access Duterte’s SALN if he decides to make it public, or if those who have a copy release it.
Why does this matter?
All post-Marcos presidents have released their SALNs to the public in the interest of being transparent and accountable.
Experts earlier warned that restricting public access to SALNs may increase impunity among officials since discrepancies in their wealth may no longer be scrutinized for possible red flags and corruption.
A recent report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said that with the public being unable to access the President’s SALN, “Duterte is breaking a long tradition of presidents making their annual wealth disclosures public year after year.”
PCIJ likewise said in 2019 that, ”This would be the first time in the last 30 years that a President has not released his or her SALN.”
Shielded by Ombudsman?
On Monday, Roque denied the new Ombudsman rules would be a blow to transparency but maintained Malacañang was bound by its guidelines.
“Hindi naman po siguro dahil may bago pong guidelines na sinusunod ang Office of the Ombudsman. Siguro naman po dahil… constitutional body yung ombudsman ay dapat naman po sundin natin yung kanilang guidelines,” he said.
(I don’t think so, since there are new guidelines that the Office of the Ombudsman is following. The Ombudsman is a constitutional body so we should follow their guidelines.)
Despite concerns raised over the move, Malacañang earlier told the public to “respect” the Ombudsman’s rules on SALNs. – Rappler.com