Palace can’t use privacy excuse on redactions
Public officials, including members of President Duterte’s Cabinet, “must satisfy the purpose of transparency” by not redacting crucial information in their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), the National Privacy Commission (NPC) said on Wednesday.
Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro said that, under Republic Act No. 6713, public officials were obligated to be transparent in matters of public concern, such as those required in the SALN document.
The Civil Service Commission (CSC) also said the SALN was not covered by the Data Privacy Act and thus public officials could not use the excuse of privacy in shading out or redacting some items like the amount of properties.
The two agencies issued the opinions in the wake of the anomaly, reported by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, that Malacañang allowed the redactions in the SALNs to protect the privacy of Cabinet officials.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV had filed a resolution seeking a legislative investigation on the SALN redactions, saying the Senate did not withhold similar information.
The redactions also deviated from the executive’s policy on transparency as embodied by Mr. Duterte’s executive order on freedom of information.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the Palace would cooperate with the inquiry, but insisted that it had not violated any regulation when it blacked out certain information, including the acquisition costs of the secretaries’ real and personal properties.
“The executive would cooperate and would attend the investigation on SALNs, if and once called by the Senate,” Abella said.
Liboro said the SALN “is mandated to be publicly available” and the public’s right to know were guaranteed under RA 6713.
“Information required [by the law] pertaining to assets, liabilities and net worth, and financial and business interests of the spouse and unmarried children under 18 cannot be redacted,” Liboro said.
What may be kept under wraps are personal information pertaining to their minor children, and those that could compromise their security, such as home addresses and ID numbers, according to NPC Deputy Commissioner Ivy Patdu.
The CSC backed up the NPC’s stand.
“We should be ready to show the people how we accumulate our wealth while working in the government,” said Assistant Commissioner for Legal Affairs Ariel Ronquillo, when asked about the redactions during Wednesday’s confirmation hearing for Civil Service Commissioner Roberto Valderosa Jr.
Ronquillo said an investigation would be needed to find out who ordered the redaction.
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