Open accounts, open government | Inquirer News
Editorial

Open accounts, open government

/ 09:15 AM June 06, 2012

By virtue of its status as an Impeachment Court, the Senate in effect wrought jurisprudence when it held that R.A. 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposits Act does not forbid a public official to disclose his alien cash deposits in his Sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

The judgment of the solons that led to the ouster of Renato Corona as Supreme Court chief justice ought to stop public officials from keeping their greenbacks under wraps using Corona’s own alibi.

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Cebu City Councilor Edgardo Labella, however, sees the need for the law to explicitly command officials to disclose how much they own in foreign cash.

Support for his proposal rests on the prevalent public perception that corruption in the government often takes the form of public funds draining into the pockets of leaders.

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Retired chief justice Artemio Panganiban earlier propounded the view that an official’s possession of money in excess of what he could save from his salary is a prima facie evidence that his wealth was ill-gotten.

Imagine what would happen if Panganiban’s opinion, which helped the senators remove Corona, would be applied in evaluating the fully disclosed assets of our public servants.

How many of them would be left in office? How many people involved in money-laundering would be exposed?

Last year, the Philippines moved up five places to no. 129 from no. 134 in 2010 on Transparency International’s corrupt countries index.

By a happy coincidence, news that our economy grew by 6.4 percent, a figure better than expected, emerged soon after Corona was convicted.

This shows not only that battles have been won in the fight against corruption under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

It also shows that the economy certainly does not stagnate when our leaders focus unswervingly on prosecuting hoodlums in civil service.

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The President’s war on graft has seen the restoration of graft-busting state auditor Heidi Mendoza, impeachment and resignation of former tanodbayan Merceditas Gutierrez and appointment of retired justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as new Ombudsman, filing of plunder and electoral sabotage charges against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and recently Corona’s removal.

Yet the war is miles from its end.

For all intents and purposes, Congress should see the wisdom behind Labella’s proposal.

But our lawmakers should not forget that a Freedom of Information law would also be a means to address his concern and more: the need for all three branches of the government to put a spotlight on all their dealings.

Citizens have every right to monitor and meddle in the government’s affairs. To paraphrase that late moral scourge of grafters, Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, politics and all the transactions it entail are too serious to be left entirely in the hands of politicos.

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TAGS: bank accounts, Corona impeachment trial, Government, Graft and Corruption, Judiciary, statement of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALN)
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