GMA's HR2467: making SALN unusable as anti-corruption tool

House Speaker Gloria M. Arroyo at work. Screengrab from the House video.

Last week, The House of Representatives adopted a Resolution that would make it extremely difficult to get a copy of the members’ Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

House Resolution No. 2467, authored by 10 members of the House led by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo set requirements that makes the use of SALN as an anti-corruption almost impossible.

The motive of the of the authors is obvious: they don’t want the public to know they got richer while in public office.

Arroyo’s co-authors are Majority Leader Fredenil Castro; RepresentativesYedda Marie Romualdez; Raymond Democrito C. Mendoza; Delphine Gan Lee; Vicente S.F. Veloso; Cristina Roa-Puno; Joey S. Salceda; Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay; and Mohamad Khalid Q. Dimaporo.

Among the objectionable provisions of HR 2467 are:

-The SALN Review and Compliance Committee shall…act on all requests for copies of filed SALNs of House Members, officers and employees provided that access to copies of the SALNs of House Members by the public shall also be approved by a majority of the House in plenary session.

- As part of the evaluation, the Secretariat shall also furnish the concerned House Member, officer or employee with a copy of the SALN Request Form and the concerned House Member, officer or employee may submit a comment to the Secretariat within a reasonable period.

There are House 303 seats but currently, there are 291 members. Six have died, one resigned, four were appointed to executive positions and one was dropped from the roster.

Under HR 2467, a journalist writing a story on the unexplained wealth of a member of the House would have to get the approval 146 of the subject’s colleagues.

Also, the subject of the article will have a say whether to release his SALN or not.

They might as well have passed a Resolution declaring their SALN “Secret” and banning the release to the public.

There are a few members of the House who oppose HR2467. Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said it is “nothing but a shield of protection for corrupt officials and employees in government that are trying to run away from public accountability.”

HR 2467 Resolution negates the anti-corruption essence of Art. XI Sec. 17 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution .

Under the section “Accountability of Public Officers, it states:

“A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities, and net worth.

“In the case of the President, the Vice-President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.”

Republic Act No. 6713, the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees” states that the SALN must be filed “within thirty (30) days after assumption of office; “on or before April 30, of every year thereafter; and “within thirty (30) days after separation from the service. “

What should be declared in the SALN? RA 6713 enumerates them:

Real property, its improvements, acquisition costs, assessed value and current fair market value; personal property and acquisition cost; all other assets such as investments, cash on hand or in banks, stocks, bonds, and the like; liabilities, and; all business interests and financial connections including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households.

RA 6713 also states that in the SALN, “It shall be the duty of every public official or employee to identify and disclose, to the best of his knowledge and information, his relatives in the Government in the form, manner and frequency prescribed by the Civil Service Commission.”

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in a statement said, “We find it ironic that a document meant to help advance transparency in government is now being subjected to so many rules and restrictions by the very people entrusted to craft the laws of the land.”

NUJP protests the requirement of P300 fee for a request for a SALN of a member of the House which could total to P90,000 for all members of the House.

“SALNs are public documents and should be accessible to everyone,” NUJP said.

HR 2467 is another blockade to access to information. Which is not surprising because the Freedom of Information bill got nowhere in the House.

Information gives substance to people participation in a democracy.Information empowers people so they can make wise decisions.

HR 2467 would rather that the people are kept in the dark especially on matters about their wealth.


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