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MANILA, Philippines - Despite a law that mandates public officials to make their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth available to the public, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. told reporters on Friday that the release of the SALN remains an individual decision on the part of a lawmaker.
Belmonte said he would soon issue a letter officially announcing that he would form a committee that would get the consensus of members of the House of Representatives on the disclosure of their SALNs amid calls from various sector, including the media to make them public.
Many lawmakers are not too keen on showing their detailed SALN, fearing that their financial disclosures might be used by their political opponent against them.
Since last month, only about 20 lawmakers have released copy of their detailed SALN to Interaksyon.com out of the 284 House members.
According to Belmonte, the SALN of House members “are not as mysterious as anything” because the summary had already been released showing the amount of their assets, liabilities and net worth.
The Speaker understands the reluctance of his colleagues in making their SALNs public.
“When you’re a politician who have made opponents who are ready to nitpick you and so forth. . . . As you can see, among the people or most of the people who filed it so far are partylist people who are not actually really politicians because it’s their parties who get elected, not them,” Belmonte said.
Belmonte said getting the consensus of the House members on the SALN disclosure would be fair thing to do, adding that he would not pressure any member to make public the document.
But Republic Act 6713 of 1989 or the "Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees" mandates all public servants to disclose their SALNs to the public.
Section 8 of the law on statements and disclosures states," Public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households."
Krunimar Antonio Escudero III, acting division chief of the Civil Service Commission's Office for Legal Affairs, told InterAksyon.com on Friday that "the access to SALNs should not depend on the decision of a public official" because the law mandates them to release the statements to the public.
But he was quick to add that the right to access the SALN is not absolute.
"It's not absolute that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can have access to it anytime," he said.
"Each government agency that has records of the statements should formulate guidelines on how to allow the public to have access to the SALNs of their employees," added Escudero.