Despite RA 6713, Ombudsman says no law mandates submission of SALNs
MANILA, Philippines — There is no law in the country that compels public officials to submit their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), Ombudsman Samuel Martires said through their budget sponsor on Wednesday.
At the plenary debates on the Office of the Ombudsman’s proposed 2024 budget, the topic of SALNs popped up after Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas asked budget sponsor and Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante about the presence of confidential funds in the allocation.
Brosas questioned how the Office of the Ombudsman utilizes its confidential funds since the budget hearing mentioned that the Office is not required to conduct regular lifestyle checks or scrutiny of SALNs. Eventually, Brosas said that it might be good for the Ombudsman to check SALNs, prompting Abante to reply that Martires believes there is no law passed required to file these documents.
“I just want to say, Mr. Speaker, that maybe it would be necessary to do lifestyle checks, disclosure of SALN as a check and balance,” Brosas said in Filipino. “So, Mr. Speaker, we would like to know what the Ombudsman thinks of this.”
“Personally, I do not have a problem with my SALN. I have submitted my SALN properly. I do not know if the good lady has a problem with that, right? But the thing is, first of all, our Ombudsman said that there is actually no law na we should submit the SALN,” Abante replied.
According to Abante, the Ombudsman has no problem with doing lifestyle checks.
“Now there is no problem, Mr. Speaker, your Honor, if the Ombudsman does a lifestyle check. If there is any authority given by the agency, I will even submit to the lifestyle check. I don’t think there’s any problem with that, Mr. Speaker, your honor.
Martires has been adamant in the past that while SALNs can be published, commenting on the SALNs is not permitted under Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The Ombudsman was referring to Section 8(D) of R.A. No. 6713, which states that it is prohibited to use the SALN for “any purpose contrary to morals or public policy” and “any commercial purpose other than by news and communications media for dissemination to the general public.”
However, R.A. No. 6713’s Section 8 and Section 8(A) also states that public officials have an obligation to submit their declarations or SALNs under oath.
“Public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth, and financial and business interests, including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households,” the law’s Section 8 states.
“All public officials and employees, except those who serve in an honorary capacity, laborers and casual or temporary workers, shall file under oath their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth and a Disclosure of Business Interests and Financial Connections and those of their spouses and unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households,” Section 8(A) continues.
INQUIRER.net has sought clarification from the Office of the Ombudsman, but they have yet to reply as of posting time.
Martires, over the years, maintained that he is not blocking transparency by placing restrictions on the SALNs’ release, saying that he only believes that transparency does not mean showing one’s entire guts out.
“I think on the issue of transparency, I don’t think that transparency means that pati loob ng bituka mo ilabas mo. I am not restricting transparency, I am just following doctrinal rulings of the Supreme Court,” Martires explained in an October 2021 interview with CNN Philippines. (with reports from Jezvette Kyelle Mapagdalita, INQUIRER.net trainee)