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Martires wants jail term for people commenting on gov’t officials’ SALN

/ 02:21 PM September 09, 2021
People commenting on public officials’ SALN may face a penalty of five years in jail if the proposal of Ombudsman Samuel Martires is granted.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires. INQUIRER file photo / LYN RILLON

MANILA, Philippines — People making commentaries on public officials’ Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) may face a penalty of five years imprisonment if the proposal of Ombudsman Samuel Martires is granted.

Martires on Thursday said he relayed his plan to propose an amendment on Republic Act No. 6713 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees before the House committee on appropriations when asked why the Office of the Ombudsman has refrained from releasing SALNs.

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READ: Ombudsman denies request of lawyers to get copy of Duterte’s SALN

According to him, he was a victim of media outfits reporting and allegedly making commentaries on his SALN, implying that he earned P15 million in three months without clarifying matters with him in the first place.

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“One of the contentious provisions actually is on the SALN.  I want to reconcile (R.A.) 6713 with 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) on the SALN to provide safety nets so that a SALN can be published but no person should be allowed to comment on the SALN of a particular government official or employee,” Martires said.

“So what I am proposing is to make stringent penalties that anyone who makes a comment on this SALN of a particular government official and employee must likewise be liable for at least an imprisonment of not less than five years,” he added.

However, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate who was questioning Martires during that time remarked that it might be dangerous to make these amendments especially as the Constitution contains provisions protecting free speech.

“Hindi ho ba napaka-dangerous no’n na i-penalize natin ang mga mamamayan kung nagtatanong sila because guaranteed naman po sa ating Konstitusyon na meron silang freedom of expression.  And also, the principle of transparency and accountability na nasa atin din pong Konstitusyon,” Zarate noted.

(Isn’t penalizing Filipinos just because they are asking questions a dangerous move because the Constitution has guaranteed that they would always have freedom of expression.  And also, our Constitution has provisions on the principle of transparency and accountability.)

The lawmaker also contested Martires’ earlier statements questioning why the public is so fixated on the SALN of presidents and vice presidents, noting that corruption can happen in all areas of government.

Martires maintained that he will not yield to pressure regarding requests to release the SALNs of public officials, even as there is a clamor to release documents about President Rodrigo Duterte.

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Duterte has not publicly released a SALN since 2017.

READ: Palace: Duterte leaving it up to Ombudsman to release his SALN

“Kaya hindi po nakapagtataka na talagang interesado sila na malaman kung ano ba ang, halimbawa, nilalaman ng SALN ng pangulo, ng bise-presidente at lahat ng matataas na opisyal dahil while it is true na merong corruption sa ibaba, ang corruption ay nasa itaas din, at ito po ‘yong nagpapapalala sa sinasabi nating impunity,” Zarate said.

(That is why it is not baffling why people are interested to know what is inside, let’s say, the SALN of the president, the vice president, and other ranking officials because while it is true that corruption exists at the grassroots, corruption is also up above, and this worsens the impunity.)

Under Section 8(D) of R.A. No. 6713, it is prohibited for any person to obtain or use the SALN for purposes “contrary to morals or public policy, or any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.”

This appears to be the basis of Martires in claiming that media outfits erred in commenting about his and other officials SALN.

RELATED STORY:

Even with ouster threat, Ombudsman will not make SALNs public

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TAGS: Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, House of Representatives, Office of the Ombudsman, Ombudsman Samuel Martires, Philippine news updates, Republic Act No. 6713, SALN, Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth
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