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VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Govt officials’ responsibility to disclose SALNs

Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has said that, if elected, he is “perfectly willing” to release his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

Two days after filing his certificate of candidacy (COC) in October 2021, the former senator said in an interview on ONE News PH that it was “okay” to make SALNs publicly available for “transparency and accountability.”

Three months later on Jan. 24, he reiterated his stand in the same segment of ONE News PH, Sa Totoo Lang, after he was reported to have flip-flopped when he said in another interview with the ALC Media Group hours earlier that day that the SALN should be accessible only to a court where there is a pending case against a public official.

Marcos Jr. clarified that he was “talking about [his] own SALN” and that he is “perfectly willing to release it.” But with regard to the SALN of other public officials, he said there were fears it would be used for political purposes just like what happened in the impeachment trial of the late Supreme Court (SC) chief justice Renato Corona in 2012.

The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, found Corona guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for failing to disclose some of his multimillion-peso assets, including $2.4-million and P80-million in bank accounts and real estate properties, in his SALN. Marcos Jr. was one of three senator-judges who voted to acquit Corona.

In another interview on DZRH on Jan. 25, Marcos Jr., the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. whose family has court cases involving ill-gotten wealth, said that making public the SALN of elected and some appointed government officials should be “voluntary,” and that those who would not want to release theirs will “suffer the political consequences.”

(See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Court rulings against the Marcoses belie claims they had no ill-gotten wealth and VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Bongbong Marcos falsely claims martial law horrors fabricated)

He pointed out that senators or Supreme Court justices cannot be compelled to do so.

But should he win the presidential race, Marcos Jr. said the officials he would bring with him to the government would also release their SALNs.

In view of the points Marcos Jr. raised regarding the SALN, here are two things you need to know on the issue:

What does the Constitution and the law say about SALNs?

Access to public documents, such as SALNs, is a constitutional right of every Filipino under Article XI Section 17. Making SALNs accessible adheres to the policy of transparency and accountability in government, and helps track or check the lifestyle of public servants.

“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 (RA) No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, requires all public officials and employees to submit their SALNs, except those who serve in an honorary capacity, laborers and casual or temporary workers.

Under Section 8 of the law, SALNs should be made available for inspection at “reasonable hours.” A person requesting a copy of a SALN must pay a “reasonable fee” to cover the cost of reproduction, certification and mailing of the statements. Copies of the SALN should be available up to 10 years from the time of receipt and may then be destroyed, unless needed in an ongoing investigation.

A government employee who fails to file his or her SALN may be fined, suspended, removed, and, in some cases, imprisoned and disqualified to hold public office.

(See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: SALNs, FOI in Congress explained)

SALNs are kept on file by assigned repository agencies, which have their own guidelines for releasing the statements of officials under their custody.

The offices of the Ombudsman and those of the deputies are repositories for the SALNs of the president, vice president, heads of constitutional commissions and military officers below the rank of colonel or naval captain.

How do agencies handle the SALNs under their custody?

Since 2018, media requests for a copy of President Rodrigo Duterte’s SALN have been repeatedly denied or redirected to the Office of the President (OP). (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte’s claim on Freedom of Information Act needs context)

SALNs of Cabinet members are with the Malacañang Records Office.

In September 2020, the Ombudsman imposed stricter requirements on the release of SALNs of officials within its jurisdiction. This was more than a year after it suspended the processing of all SALN requests.

Compared to the old guidelines, persons who are not in the list of authorized persons must submit a notarized letter of authority from officials whose SALNs are being requested. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: What has changed in requesting SALN from the Ombudsman?)

In an en banc resolution dated Feb. 2, 2021, the SC dismissed a petition questioning the memorandum of Ombudsman Samuel Martires for being unconstitutional.

The SC junked the petition by Louis “Barok” Biraogo, who requested a copy of the SALN of Vice President and now presidential candidate Leni Robredo, for failure to “meet the first requirement as it does not present an actual case or controversy.”

It said that while the “right of access to information to a public official’s SALN is provided under the Constitution and Republic Act 6713, the same is not an absolute vested right” and is “subject to regulation.”

For senators and congressmen, their SALNs are in the custody of the secretaries of the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively.

The Senate stopped releasing copies of the senators’ SALNs in February 2019. According to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III issued Senate Policy Order 2019-001, which allowed access only to summaries and not the actual SALN documents.

The order cited the “Data Privacy Act of 2012,” which “restricts the dissemination of personal and privileged information.”

Lawyer Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, said in an interview on Jan. 25 on CNN Philippines that legislation “can provide the manner” of accessing SALNs but not limitations to the “content.”

He added that it is about “time for the agencies of the government to review their own instructions,” because it is “not being implemented properly.”

Human rights lawyer and senatorial aspirant Chel Diokno, in the same interview, said RA 6714 needs to be amended to remedy the flaws. He said:

“In terms of legislation, it is possible to strengthen the citizen’s right to access by amending RA 6713 to give it more teeth. To make sure that it’s clear that the duty is ministerial and any official who blocks the release of SALN should be penalized severely. Because after all, we’re just talking about how public officials must not amass ill-gotten wealth. The purpose of the SALN is very clear.”

Source: CNN Philippines YouTube, SALN: Is anyone above the law? | Politics As Usual, Jan. 25, 2021, watch from 16:08 to 16:40

In 2019, the House of Representatives under then-speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo adopted Resolution 2467, which would only grant a request for a congressman’s SALN upon approval of a majority of the legislative chamber.

It set a fee of P300 per copy of a congressman’s SALN “to cover the cost of reproduction and certification,” excluding mailing cost and other related expenses. To get a copy of the SALN of the 308 House members, one would have to pay P92,400, plus mailing and related costs.

In the judiciary, the present policy on the disclosure of the SALNs of justices came after the 1989 Supreme Court en banc ruling that prohibits the release of documents to protect the justices, judges, and court personnel from “fishing expeditions.”

SALNs would be available upon request, provided there is a “legitimate reason” for it. Under RA 6713, it is unlawful to get a copy of a SALN for “any purpose contrary to morals or public policy, or any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.”

In 2012 after Corona’s impeachment trial, the SC issued A.M. No. 09-8-6-SC, a resolution reenforcing the 1989 SC ruling which laid the guidelines for the denial of such requests:

“Requests for SALNs must be made under circumstances that must not endanger, diminish or destroy the independence, and objectivity of the members of the Judiciary in the performance of their judicial functions, or expose them to revenge for adverse decisions, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail or other untoward incidents.”

The high court, in 2020, rejected the request of the Office of Solicitor General and lawyer Larry Gadon for the SALN of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen that they intended to use in initiating a quo warranto petition against him, a move similar to what they did with former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Other national government employees file their SALNs with the Civil Service Commission.

To read more about the importance of SALNs, see our explainers:


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ONE News PH YouTube, Applying for president: Bongbong Marcos, Oct. 9, 2021

Rappler, Of top presidential bets, Marcos the only one who won’t release SALN, Jan. 24, 2022, If elected president, Bongbong Marcos says he won’t make his SALN public, Jan. 24, 2022

GMA News Online, 4 prexy aspirants’ stand on rejoining ICC, publishing SALN, among others, Jan. 23, 2022

DWIZ 882 YouTube, ALC Media Group Interview with Bongbong Marcos, Jan. 24, 2022

ONE News PH YouTube, Sa Totoo Lang, Jan. 24, 2022, Senate votes 20-3 to convict Corona, May 29, 2012

Rappler, Corona found guilty, removed from office, May 29, 2012

Yahoo Philippines, Chief Justice Renato Corona: Guilty as charged, May 29, 2012

DZRH News Television YouTube, Bakit Ikaw? the DZRH Presidential Job Interview – Former Sen. Bongbong Marcos Jr, Jan. 25, 2022

What does the Constitution and the law say about SALNs?

How do agencies handle the SALNs under their custody?


(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.)