Tawi-Tawi lawmaker to stand trial for failing to file assets reports on time
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan will proceed with the trial of Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali-Tan on six counts of violating asset disclosure rules, despite her protest that she was not given the chance first to correct her alleged mistakes.
In a two-page resolution dated March 8, the Sixth Division denied her appeal on the Jan. 12 ruling that found probable cause to try her for violating Section 8 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Tan is accused of failing to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth for the years 2007 to 2012 either under oath or on time as required by the disclosure rules.
The lawmaker claimed there was no basis for the Office of the Ombudsman’s criminal indictment because the provincial government had not given her the “opportunity to correct or rectify the oversight in her SALNs.”
Tan said her indictment violated her right under Section 10 of the Code of Conduct, as well as her constitutional right to due process.
The court, however, swept aside her argument as “untenable.” It cited the Supreme Court’s previous rulings that upheld the Ombudsman’s authority to investigate and prosecute public officials who have failed to abide by SALN rules.
It noted that the Ombudsman’s authority to investigate SALN violations has always been independent of any action or review taken by the head of the respondent’s agency.
“To hold otherwise would diminish the [Office of the Ombudsman’s] constitutionally guarded independence,” the resolution read. “This Court, being an inferior court, is bound by these decisions of the Supreme Court on the matter.”
Justice Rodolfo A. Ponferrada penned the decision, with the concurrence of Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Karl B. Miranda.
Under Section 8 of the Code of Conduct, public officials are required to disclose their family’s business interests and political connections under oath. The rule also mandates that SALNs be filed on or before April 30 each year. SFM/rga
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