2 SC justices declare wealth

For the first time in history, two Supreme Court justices allowed the public a sneak peek into how much they are worth

TRANSPARENCY: SC Justices disclose wealth

MANILA, Philippines – For the first time in decades, two Supreme Court justices allowed the public a sneak peek into how much they are worth.

Supreme Court Associate Justices Maria Lourdes Sereno and Antonio Carpio allowed the release of summaries of their respective statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) for 2009 and 2010.

Sereno, who was appointed by President Aquino to the High Court in 2010, reported net assets of P17,762,167.26–down from P17,841,353.65 in 2009.

Carpio, on the other hand, reported net assets of P47,269,928.00 for 2010.

DISCLOSURE: Summary of SC Justice Antonio Carpio's SALN for 2010

Summary of SC Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's SALN for 2009 and 2010

The justices responded to separate requests from former Newsbreak Executive Director and now Rappler managing editor Glenda M. Gloria  and Harvey Key of cause-oriented group Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.

Transparency

In a letter sent to Supreme Court Clerk of Court Enriqueta Esguerra-Vidal on December 21, 2011, Gloria asked for copies of the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth of the Supreme Court justice “in the spirit of transparency.”

ACCESS REQUEST: Newsbreak letter to the Supreme Court

Copies of the letter were delivered to the offices of individual justices on the same day. (See delivery receipt.)

DELIVERY RECEIPT: SC justices who received copies of Newsbreak's request

Two days later, on December 23, Vidal’s office sent Newsbreak a letter by fax saying that the request “has been referred to the Court En Banc for its information and appropriate action.”

On Dec. 28, 2011, however, Sereno sent Vidal a letter citing the letters from Newsbreak and a separate letter from  Keh of Kaya Natin. Sereno said she was granting the said requests in accordance with Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6713.

“I hereby authorize your office to release the attached summarized information report regarding my 2009 and 2010 SALN to Mr. Keh and Mr. Gloria for the purposes stated in their respective letters.”

RELEASE IT: SC Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno tells Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal to release the summary of her SALN

Pending review

Two justices, Carpio and Associate Justice Estela Bernabe, were not able to receive their copies of the Newsbreak letter because the offices were already closed for the holidays.

Carpio, however, released his own summary of assets and liabilities to Keh on Dec. 21, 2011. Carpio said he authorized the release pending action by the Court En Banc on the recommendation to review the policy regarding public disclosure of the SALN of Justices and Judges.

Keh, the lead convenor of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on Dec. 19, 2011, requesting for copies of the justices’ SALNs.

Carpio’s office faxed a copy of his response to Kaya Natin to Newsbreak.

PENDING REVIEW: SC Justice Antonio Carpio's letter to Harvey Keh

Tightly lidded

Judges and justices, being government officials are required by law to submit annual disclosures of assets, liabilities, net worth and business interests.

The Code of Conduct of and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713) requires repository agencies of SALNs to make these documents available to the public for reproduction within 10 days from the time they are filed as required by law.

The judiciary, however, has traditionally kept a tight lid over the SALNs of the men in robes.

For instance, when Newsbreak writer Aries Rufo wrote an article assessing the performance of then outgoing Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., the Supreme Court rejected his request for photocopies of the SALNs of Davide and his son, Joseph Bryan Hilary Davide.

In its letter to Newsbreak then, the Supreme Court cited a May 1989 en banc resolution stating that requests for this kind of information tend to “endanger, diminish or destroy their [the judiciary’s] independence…and expose them to revenge for adverse decisions, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail.” It argues: “The independence of the judiciary is constitutionally as important as the right to information.”

One of the charges in the articles of impeachment currently lodged against Corona at the Senate is his failure to disclose his SALN to the public.

Whether the threat of impeachment is finally changing attitudes in the High Court remains to be seen. – Rappler.com