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Bill to test sincerity of lawmakers on transparency

/ 07:07 AM February 23, 2014

Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/www.congress.gov.ph

MANILA, Philippines—Just how transparent are public officials and employees willing to be?

Sorsogon Rep. Evelina Escudero will soon find out as she tries to drum up support for a bill she recently filed that would require all public officials and employees to allow the Ombudsman to look into their local and foreign bank deposits if there is a need to do so.

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Escudero’s bill would make it mandatory for all government officials and employees, except those serving in honorary capacity, to give the Office of the Ombudsman permission to peek into all their deposits of whatever nature in banks and banking institutions in the country and abroad.

The waiver would also apply to investment bonds issued by the Philippine government and its political subdivisions and instrumentalities.

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Escudero said it should be state policy for all public officials and employees to be open about their finances.

“This mechanism will enable the government to audit the finances of the civil servant and serve as a deterrent to graft and corruption,” she said in the explanatory note to her bill.

The bill provides that only the Office of the Ombudsman would be able to use the waiver or the information obtained as a result of the written permission.

The data should also only be used for investigating a verified complaint or prosecuting a case in the Sandiganbayan.

Those who violate these rules could face a maximum jail term of six years or a P100,000 fine or both.

The bill comes at a time of intense scrutiny into the financial dealings of certain lawmakers who have been implicated in a scam to steal from their pork barrel using fake nongovernment organizations.

The funds that were siphoned from public coffers and transferred to private hands ran to the billions of pesos.

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It remains to be seen if Escudero’s bill would gain the support of her colleagues, some of whom were reluctant to disclose details in their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth despite the clamor for more openness following the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.

Under the bill, a written permission or waiver to the Ombudsman allowing examination of a government official or employee’s deposits must be submitted within 30 days of his or her assumption to office; incumbent officials meanwhile must provide the document within 30 days of the promulgation of the law’s implementing rules and regulations.

Failure to submit a waiver would result in the official’s not being allowed to continue exercising the functions of the office. Those who would continue to hold office would face a fine equivalent to one year’s salary, be suspended for a maximum of one year, or removed from office.

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TAGS: Foreign Bank Deposits, Investment Bonds, Office of the Ombudsman, Ombudsman, Renato Corona, Rep. Evelina Escudero, Sandiganbayan, Sorsogon, transparency
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