Ex-Ombudsman to Martires on order limiting SALN access: ‘You are supposed to be transparent’
MANILA, Philippines — The decision of Ombudsman Samuel Martires to limit public access to a government official’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) goes against a constitutional principle which calls for transparency, his predecessor said.
“It goes against the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust. There’s this law which mandates the filing of SALNs and also mandates that the public shall be entitled to even a photocopy of the SALN of public officials or employees for as long as they don’t cross the prohibited acts,” former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel.
Martires earlier issued new guidelines on the request for copies of a government official’s SALN, limiting it to the declarant and to officers conducting investigations.
“It does not carry out the spirit of the law which means that public office is a public trust and therefore you are supposed to be transparent,” Morales added.
The filing of SALN is required under Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
On Tuesday, Ombudsman Martires defended the restriction of public access to the SALN of officials, saying that this is supposedly being weaponized against government officials.
But Morales said the supposed weaponization of a SALN should be the “concern of the politician.”
“If he (Martires) believes that a request for SALNs is being weaponized by enemies of the politician whose SALN is being requested, then that is the concern of the politician but no one can refuse the request of anyone to use a or to copy a SALN for as long as it is not against morals or public policy,” the former Ombudsman said.
“Now, if it turns out that the person who requested it (SALN) uses it against morals or public policy, the person whose SALN was requested has a remedy,” she added.
The government official can file a case against the requestor, according to Morales.
“The requestor, if he is faulted, then he can be fined for not more than P25,000. So it’s the concern of the politician to fault the requester if the requested SALN is being used against morals or public policy,” she said.
Asked if Martires’ new policy shows an effort to protect politicians more than the interest of the public, Morales said: “No, I don’t think so.”
“I won’t take it into that light…He has his own motivations in issuing that memorandum but anyone can misread or misinterpret a law. So probably, he misread the law. I’m sorry to say that, Ombudsman Martires,” she added.