Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque cited the wrong executive order in connection with the new guidelines in processing requests for Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) that the Office of the Ombudsman released on Sept. 15.
In a Sept. 16 interview on CNN Philippines, Roque was asked if the Ombudsman’s new guidelines on releasing SALNs contradicted the president’s stance on transparency and his executive order on freedom of information, and he said:
“Anyone can request the copy of the SALN, complying with the requirements of Executive Order No. 1.”
The president’s spokesperson repeated the reference to the wrong EO when asked about the requests of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) for Duterte’s SALN for 2018 that have not been granted. He said:
“I can’t comment on that because I don’t know what procedure they followed, because there is also a procedure provided in EO No. 1 and you need to comply with it regardless of who you are as a requesting party.”
It is President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 2, not the first, that mandates “full public disclosure and transparency” of information in all government offices under the executive branch.
In recognition of the Filipinos’ constitutional right to information on matters of public concern, the president signed the order on July 23, 2016, two days before delivering his first state of the nation address.
The directive, which classified SALN as a public record, reminded public officials of their “obligation to file and make available for scrutiny” their SALN, subject to existing Philippine laws and rules and regulations.
Duterte’s EO No. 1 was about “re-engineering” the Office of the President for efficient delivery of services. It assigned then-Cabinet secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco Jr. to oversee the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, among other agencies.
The order also merged the offices and functions of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) and the Office of the Appointments Secretary under the Office of the Special Assistant to the President (OSAP), which was then manned by now Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.
With the revised guidelines, those who wish to access SALNs are now limited to:
- Government officials
- Representative of government officials with a notarized letter of authority
- A requester acting upon a court order in relation to a pending case
- Field investigators of the Ombudsman for its fact-finding investigations
- A requester with a notarized letter of authority from the official who filed the SALN
Before the revision, the general public, the media and students can request a copy of a public official’s SALN, provided that they have filled out the proper forms and presented identification documents to the Ombudsman’s office (READ: VERA FILES FACT SHEET: What has changed in requesting SALN from the Ombudsman?).
Office of the Ombudsman, Memorandum Circular No. 1, Series of 2020, Sept. 15, 2020
CNN Philippines Official Youtube Channel, The Source: Harry Roque, Sept. 16, 2020
Official Gazette of the Philippines, Executive Order No. 2, s. 2016, July 23, 2016
Inquirer.net, Duterte signs FOI order, July 24, 2016
Philstar.com, Duterte signs historic EO on Freedom of Information, July 24, 2016
CNN Philippines, President Duterte finally signs FOI, July 24, 2016
Official Gazette of the Philippines, Executive Order No. 1, s. 2016, June 30, 2016
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)