Lifestyle checks used for extortion – Ombudsman
MANILA, Philippines — Lifestyle checks and declarations of wealth have been used by politicians and members of the media for extortion, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said on Saturday.
Martires said this in a radio interview following his order to stop conducting lifestyle checks against officials suspected of extravagant living, and restricting of access to the SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) of public officials.
“Lifestyle check is a fishing expedition. It’s when you’re looking for evidence against the person who is being [investigated],” he said, adding that this procedure is based on estimates on the living expenses, travel costs of a subject.
Martires said there was also no basis for unexplained wealth since the procedure was based on estimates.
But many politicians have been “victimized” by lifestyle checks, he said.
“According to the report of our investigators, this has been a source of extortion. We have members of the media who used this. They would get a SALN copy and use it to scare an official,” Martires said.
In a recent budget hearing, Martires said the anticorruption body stopped lifestyle checks because the code of conduct for public officials, or Republic Act No. 6713, sets “unclear” standards.
The Ombudsman previously conducted lifestyle checks on public officials, but Martires said this procedure was not mandated by law, and was merely copied from Hong Kong.
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