House SALN restrictions draw flak
What have they got to hide?
Opposition lawmakers are assailing a House measure that makes it cumbersome for the public and media to gain access to lawmakers’ statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs), including a requirement for majority approval of the request in plenary session and a P300 fee for each document.
“What is so sacrosanct about the contents of a representative’s SALN that the access to it by the public and media is made inordinately restrictive and tedious?” asked Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Approval by plenary
The congressman cited in particular a condition requiring that any request of a House member’s SALN should “have the imprimatur of the majority in plenary session.”
“If we have nothing to hide, why make public access to and disclosure of SALNs, which are public documents, extremely difficult to the extent of discouraging and deterring applicants from securing copies of said SALNs?” Lagman said in a statement.
On Wednesday night, the House adopted House Resolution No. 2467 authored by Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Majority Leader Fredenil Castro and seven others providing for new rules in the grant of public access to the SALNs of congressmen and regular employees.
Under the new rules, requesting parties must pay P300 per copy of the SALN if the request is approved by the House majority in plenary session.
P90,000 for all SALNs
Since there are 291 incumbent members of the House, journalists or students would have to shell out P90,000 to get the SALNs of all legislators.
Requesting parties, including media, would have to fill out a prescribed form for the SALN request and provide multiple identification documents, including certification of accreditation by the news organization and proof of media affiliation in the case of reporters.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said the House measure should be challenged in court.
“The House has thrown away the tenets of public accountability and transparency. HR No. 2467 goes against the meaning of public office as a public trust. It practically renders the requirement of SALNs by legislators ineffectual if these cannot be divulged. It provides double standards in exacting accountability,” he said.
Former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the adoption of the measure was “highly suspicious especially now that the election is near and talks of billions of pork barrel in the national budget are in the headlines.”
“This will only further aid in hiding ill – gotten wealth by corrupt politicians,” he said in a statement.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said it was the first time such a rule was imposed in Congress.
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