Poe: Stricter rules on accessing SALN a setback in transparency
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representative’s move to require plenary approval for any request for a statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) of lawmakers could violate the Constitution and a “setback” in delivering greater transparency in the government, Senator Grace Poe said Tuesday.
The House adopted a resolution last week requiring majority approval at the plenary before releasing any SALN of its members. Under the resolution, the requesting party must also pay P300 for each member’s SALN, or a total of P87,300 for the SALNs of all 291 House members.
Poe said that it is “a bit ridiculous” that a request to access a lawmaker’s SALN will be taken up “like a law” that needs plenary approval.
“We have inter-parliamentary courtesy but it’s a bit ridiculous… to take it up like a law that you need to approve it in plenary,” Poe said in a televised interview.
Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public information and mass media and sponsor of the Freedom of Information bill, said House Resolution 2467 “could be a violation of the Constitution” as Article 11, Section 17 mandates government officials and employees to disclose their SALNs.
She also cited Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees which requires public servants to make all public documents accessible to and readily available for public scrutiny.
The senator also noted how the new House rules earlier established a committee on review and compliance that will grant or block requests for SALN copies. Plenary approval is also required in cases of denial by the review committee.
However, she assured that the Senate would not follow suit as Senate President Vicente Sotto III said that there is no plan to tighten rules in the higher chamber of Congress to access senators’ SALN.
“They [House] have their own set of rules. It does not mean that the Senate approves of that. Our Senate President has already spoken, that’s not how it should be,” Poe said.
Poe earlier warned that errant government officials could take advantage of stricter rules in accessing the SALN.
“Ang ikinababahala ko lang kasi ay kung magiging istrikto tayo sa pagpapalabas ng SALN, baka mas lalong lumakas ang loob ng mga ibang may hindi naman maayos na gawain,” Poe said in interview on Monday.
Poe revived her call for the passage of the freedom of information (FOI) bill which she sponsored, citing the need for transparency among government officials.
“Dapat na talagang maipatupad ang batas ng FOI sapagkat hangga’t hindi ito naisasabatas ay puwedeng humanap ng paraan para hindi ilabas ang katotohanan,” she said. /muf