Partying solons still won’t release SALNs
The House of Representatives is in danger of being dubbed the “House of Hypocrites” as its leaders—who have been partying for three straight nights after successfully obtaining a guilty verdict against former Chief Justice Renato Corona—continue to play deaf to mounting calls for them to fully disclose their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) and sign waivers to disclose their bank deposits.
House Secretary General Marilyn Barua Yap, the custodian of House members’ records, continues to turn down requests for copies of the SALN of all 284 representatives, particularly those who led the impeachment drive against Corona who was ousted solely for failing to disclose his true net worth in his SALN.
“None yet,” was Yap’s answer when asked whether she had obtained the go-signal from Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to release the SALN of the chamber’s members.
Belmonte himself has retreated from a previous commitment to release the House SALNs, promising to do so after the Corona trial ostensibly to avoid any distractions. He made this statement a month ago after President Aquino, the Cabinet and the senators disclosed their SALNs.
With Corona having been declared guilty four days ago, Belmonte and House leaders have been either evasive or outright dismissive when pressed to redeem Belmonte’s promise.
Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., the leader of the prosecution panel, declared that he and his colleagues would not “dignify” the former Chief Justice’s challenge, which Tupas dismissed as mere grandstanding.
Kabataan party-list member Raymond Palatino, one of the first House members to release his SALN in full and signify an intention to sign a bank waiver, said that Tupas and the rest of the majority bloc members should heed the public clamor for full transparency and good governance which they had claimed was the impetus for impeaching Corona.
“This will be a hollow victory if the anticorruption fight ends with Corona. The House leadership should prove that it’s ready to clean its own backyard by promoting the signing of waivers, which has emerged as an effective transparency tool. At the minimum, disclose the SALN to the public. Otherwise, we will become a house of hypocrites. We will appear to be grandstanding, self-righteous politicians,” said Palatino in a phone interview.
He singled out Tupas for going “overboard” in vilifying Corona primarily for refusing to disclose his SALN.
“When he was railing against the Chief Justice, he was talking as if Corona was the most evil person on this planet. Now that he is being asked to simply disclose his SALN fully and sign a bank waiver, he is belittling the public’s demand as grandstanding,” said Palatino.
Flip-flopping on bank waiver
Only three dozen lawmakers have revealed their SALNs to the media without waiting for Belmonte’s signal, including the minority bloc led by Danilo Suarez who stepped up the pressure against the members of the majority to be candid about their net worth.
Less than a dozen, mostly militant party-list members, have agreed to sign a bank waiver to disclose their deposits.
But even Bayan Muna party-list members have been flip-flopping on the bank waiver challenge of Corona.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño initially expressed indignation when Corona made his waiver challenge two weeks ago, dismissing it as a mere “ploy” and publicity stunt.
On Friday, Casiño was pontificating against Mr. Aquino for refusing to sign a bank waiver and even calling the President’s stance as palusot, or a lame excuse.
“Is he hiding something? In truth, the waiver is important not because there is a complaint against an official but because this would help the Ombudsman in investigating whether or not an official lied in his SALN or is engaged in illegally amassing wealth,” he said.
LGUs urged to release SALN
In Legazpi City, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo on Friday urged local chief executives to make a full disclosure of their SALN as a gesture of transparency and accountability.
But he noted that the Department of Interior and Local Governments has no authority to compel them to do so because the SALNs are submitted directly to the Office of the Ombudsman.
“It’s up to them whether they would like to show this to the public, for transparency purposes,” he said.
The current practice among LGUs, just like that in Congress and in Malacañang, is to just release to the public a summary of the SALNs submitted by these officials. It is from these summaries that media outlets usually get the list of the richest or the poorest officials.
Robredo said he himself made his SALN public by giving out copies of it to media outlets early this week. With a report from Mar S. Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon