Roxas seeks Senate probe on stricter SALN access

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 | posted in , , , , , , | 0 comments

Senator Mar Roxas today sought a Senate inquiry into new restrictions imposed by the Ombudsman on public access to a public document that reveals the net worth and properties of all public officials and employees amid ongoing media investigation of the alleged inexplicable ballooning wealth of President Arroyo and her family.

Roxas filed Senate Resolution No. 1374, asking the appropriate Senate committee to look into the validity and legality of the Office of the Ombudsman Memorandum Circular No. 01, series of 2009, or the Revised Guidelines Governing Access to Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or SALNs filed with the Ombudsman.

He said the new Ombudsman rules requires those who want access to SALNs to fill up forms and need to swear under oath from fiscals or public prosecutors the purpose or purposes they have in accessing those documents.

These new guidelines issued by the Ombudsman “obstruct rather than reinforce constitutional mandates of transparency and accountability in public service as well as undermine constitutional rights of access to information by the people,” Roxas insisted.

As author of the proposed Free Information Act that is still pending approval in both chambers of Congress, Roxas pointed out that the Constitution compels all public officers and employees to submit a declaration under oath of their assets, liabilities and net worth upon their assumptions to office, which shall be disclosed to the public.

The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019) also requires public officials to “prepare and file a true, detailed and sworn statement of assets and liabilities” while the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713) “reinforces the public’s constitutionally protected right to information and access to public documents by providing that the (SALNs) of public officials shall be made available for inspection at reasonable hours and copying or reduction.”

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez issued the new guidelines on June 16 this year, amidst calls for an investigation into the alleged unexplained wealth of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her family.

At the time the new guidelines came out, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) was doing a research on and conducting an examination of the SALN of President Arroyo, which it noted had allegedly grown significantly based on her 2008 SALN. The report also said Mrs. Arroyo got rich faster than the three presidents before her.
"The motivation and timing of the release of the Ombudsman Memorandum Circular is questionable, coming at a time when the SALNs of the President and her immediate family were under intense public inspection," the Visayan senator said.

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