Robredo to Duterte: Set example, release SALN
MANILA, Philippines — If President Duterte was serious about stamping out corruption, he should set an example by releasing his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) and heeding the Commission on Audit’s (COA) recommendations on cleaning house along with other government officials, Vice President Leni Robredo said on Sunday.
“There are so many other ways to show you are anticorruption,” Robredo said in her weekly radio show on dzXL. “The SALN is just one of the many ways through which you can prove that you are truly transparent and show you are not corrupt.”
In September last year, the Office of the Ombudsman had issued a memorandum circular saying it would no longer grant public access to SALNs without the concerned officials’ consent.
The President’s last publicly accessible SALN was in 2017, in which he declared a net worth of P28.5 million.
In December 2019, then presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said there was no need to release the 2018 SALN of Mr. Duterte for public scrutiny.
Panelo said the nonrelease of the President’s SALN did not prove that the President was not committed to transparency.
“Such accusation is baseless if not malicious,” he said.
Robredo came to the defense of the beleaguered state auditors, whose annual audit reports revealed billions in misused government funds across almost all corners of Mr. Duterte’s bureaucracy.
‘I’ll audit everything’
The reports have riled Mr. Duterte, who now believes the agency was out to smear his government. Later, he said he would personally audit all government agencies, including the COA itself, if he ever becomes vice president—a post that has no auditing powers.
“Somebody should do it,“ Mr. Duterte said during his televised address on Thursday. “I will do that if I become vice president. I will also be the one to audit everything in government. All, including mine. I can start with mine.”
On Sunday, the Vice President herself reminded Mr. Duterte that that power rests solely in the COA, one of the three constitutional bodies formed under the Constitution.
“The mandate of the vice president is mere succession,” reminded Robredo, also a lawyer. “We’re just a little more creative with our office, which is why we have antipoverty and COVID-19 programs, but auditing powers rest solely within [the COA]. It cannot be usurped by other branches of government.”
She also reminded the President that his office, in fact, plays the most crucial role in reducing corruption across the government.
Mr. Duterte had in fact run on this promise to eradicate corruption in the government within “three to six months.”
However, a recent Ateneo School of Governance study assessing his track record in his past five years showed he did not fare well in this promise, because of his penchant to reappoint and defend controversial appointees like Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
She added that respecting and observing COA rules—rather than eschewing and shrugging off their reports—also “proves whether we are aboveboard.” INQ
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