Palace: House SALN rules may breach Charter

THE House resolution adopting stricter rules on accessing lawmakers’ Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth does not sit well with Malacañang, which said any “additional burden to get the SALN may be a transgression of the Constitution.”

Under House Resolution 2467, requests for copies of filed SALNs of House members and employees must be approved by a majority of the House in plenary session, wherein over 200 members must vote in favor of the disclosure of a SALN before it can be released. 

Notably, the SALN will only be released upon consent of the lawmaker in question aside from imposing an additional fee of P300 per request of copy. 

Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo said on Monday that such a procedure runs counter to the constitutional provision requiring any public official to submit a SALN and to Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

“The Executive promoted transparency when the President issued Executive Order 2 [Series of 2016] on the Freedom of Information making effective the people’s right to information within its branch. Any stringent measure which burdens the people in obtaining public information may not be consistent with transparency and accountability of public officials,” Panelo added.      

The Palace spokesman also said they prefer that the House deliberate more on this measure “because it may be running the risk of being questioned later on.”

As far as the executive department is concerned, Panelo said, “we issued the Executive Order on Freedom of Information precisely because we want the SALN to be readily available to the public.”

Political analysts also backed Malacañang on this issue and said the resolution goes against the spirit of transparency provision in the Constitution for public officers. 

“It’s against the constitutional intent of transparency and accountability. The legislators are public servants, too,” said Ramon Casiple, executive director of Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms. 

Casiple also surmised that the budget impasse may have something to do with the House approving this resolution. 

Budget insertion issues have been hounding the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for 2019. 

The government is currently operating under a reenacted budget due to Congress’ failure to approve the 2019 national budget before year-end last year. 

“[It could be for] protection from possible cases. Remember the Napoles case and its toxic implications on pork barrel,” Casiple said in a text message to the BusinessMirror. 

For De La Salle University Political Science professor Francisco Magno, having the SALN Review and Compliance Committee consisting of legislators as the approving body would be a
“cumbersome process.”

“The usual exemption of requests is whether such would be inimical to national security. Veritably, the SALN does not belong to this category. Since public office is a public trust, the onus of responsibility lies on the lawmaker if there is a preference to deny requests for SALN disclosure from citizens,” Magno said via SMS. 

However, contrary to the criticisms, House Majority Leader and Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro has defended the approval of the House Resolution, saying public access to the SALN will soon be made much easier. 

Castro said the resolution also remains faithful to the principle of transparency as accountability will be guaranteed by both the public and the SALN filers. 


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