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MANILA, Philippines -- The Supreme Court (SC) has issued guidelines for the release of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) not only of the justices of the High Court but justices and judges in all courts nationwide.
In a 22-page resolution dated June 13, 2012, released to the media on Wednesday, the SC through Associate Justice Jose C. Mendoza, has decided to release their 2011 SALNs subject to guidelines after justices of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals (CA), Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) and judges of lower courts in the country have been consulted and agreed to make it public.
"Although no direct opposition to the disclosure of SALN and other personal documents is being expressed, it is the uniform position of the said magistrates and the various judges' associations that the disclosure must be made in accord with the guidelines set by the Court under such circumstances that would not undermine the independence of the Judiciary," the SC resolution said.
Here are the guidelines issued by the SC:
-- All request shall be filed with the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals; for the lower courts, with the Office of the Court administrator; and for attached agencies, with their respective heads of offices;
-- Requests shall cover only copies of the latest SALN, Personal Data Sheet, Curriculum Vitae of the members, officials and employees of the Judiciary and may cover only previous records if so specifically requested and considered as justified, as determined by the officials mentioned in par -- under the terms of these guidelines and the implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees;
-- In the case of requests for copies of SALN of the Justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan and the Court of Tax Appeals, the authority to disclose shall be made by the Court en banc;
-- Every request shall explain the requesting party's specific purpose and their individual interests sought to be served; shall state the commitment that the request shall only be for the stated purpose; and shall be submitted in a duly accomplished request form secured from the SC website. The use of the information secured shall only be for the stated purpose;
-- In the case of requesting individuals other than members of the media, their interests should go beyond pure or mere curiosity;
-- In the case of the members of the media, the request shall additionally be supported by proof under oath of their media affiliation and by a similar certification of the accreditation of their respective organization as legitimate media practitioners; and
-- The requesting party, whether as an individual or as members of the media, must have no derogatory record of having misused any requested information previously furnished to them.
The guidelines, the SC said, is an assurance that "requests for SALNs must be made under circumstances that must not endanger, diminish or destroy the independence, and objectivity of the members of the Judiciary in the performance of their judicial functions or expose them to revenge for adverse decisions, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail or other untoward incidents."
The SC pacified the concerns of the justices and judges regarding the illicit motives of some who will request their SALNs saying "the moral or material injury which their misuse might inflict on others is the requestor's responsibility and lookout. Any publication is made subject to the consequences of the law."
The SC ruling in effect overruled the 1989 ruling in the Alejandrino case where the SC unanimously voted to deny the request for SALN which are directly or indirectly traced to a litigant, lawyer or any party with a pending case before the court.
The 1989 ruling stated that there has to be a "legitimate reason" for such a request as well as good faith and not fish for information that can be used to influence a court's decision.
The 1989 ruling of the SC was reiterated in 1992, when in a resolution the SC said that the disclosure of SALNs not only of SC justices but justices from the CA, Sandiganbayan, CTA, lower court judges and court personnel have been restricted to shield them from acts that may "endanger, diminish or destroy their independence and objectivity in the performance of their judicial functions."
Chief Justice Renato Corona, during the Senate impeachment trial, signed an unconditional waiver allowing the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to look into his bank accounts and business interest.
Corona's act has been hailed as a good start to show transparency in the government with some members of Congress and Senator Francis Escudero signing similar waiver and challenged the other government officials to do the same.
However, Corona has been removed from office after he admitted that he did not include in his SALN his US$ 2.4-million deposit in four dollar bank accounts and P80-million deposit in three peso bank accounts.