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Ombudsman limits people who can request for gov’t officials’ SALN

/ 05:52 PM September 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has issued new guidelines on who can request copies of a government official’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), limiting it to the declarant and for officers conducting investigations.

According to the Memorandum Circular No. 1 signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires, this move is in accordance with the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 6713 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

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Under this memorandum dated September 1, SALNs would now be released only in three situations:

• if the declarant, meaning the government official who filed it and his or her official representative made a request;
• if it is legally ordered by the court in relation to a pending case
• if the request is made through the Office of the Ombudsman’s field investigation office for the purpose of a fact-finding probe

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“In all other instances, no SALN will be furnished to the requester unless he/she presents a notarized letter of authority from the declarant allowing the release of the requested SALN,” the memorandum said.

With this in effect, the public may lose access to the officials’ SALNs as media practitioners were not included among those who may request copies, although it is unclear whether the Office of the Ombudsman would release it publicly.

SALNs have been considered crucial to identifying possible graft and corruption, as it would show whether an official’s wealth and liabilities correspond to his or her salary and other ventures while in office.

It was used as primary evidence to claim that late ex-chief justice Renato Corona amassed ill-gotten wealth while in office, based on discrepancies in his SALN.

READ: What Went Before: Charges against former Chief Justice Corona 

These documents may still surface however if these are made public during an investigation, if these are leaked by insiders, or if the government official involved choosing to disclose the SALN.

But according to Section 7 of the memorandum, government agencies cannot seek a copy of the SALN if the request is not supported by a notarized letter of authority from the official who filed it.

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“To protect the right to privacy of the declarant whose SALN was the subject of a request, all SALN request forms shall be treated as part of the public record. The form shall be made readily available to the declarant upon his/her request in writing to the Ombudsman. The form shall be kept by the custodian of the SALN,” Section 5 says.

“All requests by government agencies for the SALNs of their officials and employees for any purpose shall be denied unless the request form is supported by the declarant’s notarized letter of authority. Except for the payment of the fees, the agency will be required to observe the above procedure in requesting the SALN,” Section 7 adds.

With the new rules, requests for SALN copies can be filed 10 days after the SALN was filed in accordance with existing laws, and for up to 10 years since the document was filed.  After 10 years, SALNs not required in any investigation would be destroyed.

Requests may be made to the Ombudsman’s main office in Quezon City, and regional offices in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.  But before that, the individuals making the request should present two valid government identification cards if he or she is the declarant, and if it is an authorized representative, the request should include the representative’s ID cards and special power of attorney.

If the request is made by an Ombudsman field investigation office employee, he or she would only have to present his or her Ombudsman ID card. [ac]

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TAGS: corruption, Court order, declarant, Fact-Finding Probe, field investigation office, Graft, investigations, Memorandum Circular No. 1, new guidelines, Office of the Ombudsman, Ombudsman, Ombudsman Samuel Martires, Philippine news updates, Republic Act No. 6713, SALN, Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth, transparency
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