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Strict requirements for SALN disclosure ‘unconstitutional’ — solon

/ 03:59 PM February 01, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The strict requirements for the disclosure of congressmen’s statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) is “unconstitutional,” Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin warned Friday.

In a statement, the opposition party-list representative said House Resolution No. 2467, which was adopted on second reading last Wednesday, would “curtail public access to lawmakers’ SALN through high fees, next-to-impossible requirements, and a plenary vote before such public document can be released.

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READ: Request for solons’ SALNs may soon need House plenary approval

“If we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear. If legislators are making laws for the public to comply, it can’t make Rules to exempt ourselves for doing the same. This in effect is class legislation as it provides double standards in exacting accountability. We can’t invoke our security to the level of national security to justify this House resolution,” Villarin said.

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“I think this should be challenged in court by any taxpayer and stricken down as unconstitutional being class legislation,” he added.

HR 2467 requires plenary approval or approval of the majority of the 292 district and party-list representatives before any SALN can be released.

It also requires many submissions from the requesting party, even for members of the media, such as “proof under oath of media affiliation, and media accreditation as a legitimate media practitioner.”

In a statement, Majority Leader and Capiz 2nd District Rep. Fredenil Castro defended the resolution, which he claimed made public access to SALNs “easier.”

“Within 20 days after the last day of filing of SALN, the media will have to be given copies of the summary,” Castro said, referring only to the summary of SALNs of lawmakers being released annually.

He explained that the committee or the plenary has the authority to overrule the decision of a non-cooperative lawmaker but not those who are willing to share their SALN.

The Arroyo ally also belied claims that the adoption of HR 2467 was railroaded, pointing out that “proper legislative processes, including committee deliberation, were observed.”

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READ: ‘If we have nothing to hide, why make access to SALN extremely difficult?’

Castro also earlier said the resolution was just based on the former House leadership’s HR 1410.

In May 2017, the lower House, under the leadership of Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, failed to release a summary of its members’ SALNs after it created a review committee to draft rules on the request for the public document. The said committee, chaired by Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Rep. Reynaldo Umali, drafted HR 1410.

READ: House fails to release SALN summaries after creating new review committee

For his part, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said the rule was “a shield of protection for corrupt officials and employees in government that are trying to run away from public accountability.”

Alejano then pushed his House Bill No. 3155, which he said would “increase transparency in government” and “exclude government officials from the Bank Secrecy Law.” /ee

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