WATCH | CSC exec says SALN is ‘instrument of transparency,’ it must not be used to unlawfully enrich public servants

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File photo of CSC Assistant Commissioner for Legal Affairs Ariel Ronquillo from e-newsletter of the Philippine Civil Service

MANILA, Philippines — Because the SALN “is an instrument of transparency,” the document should not be shaded to hide information about the wealth and possessions of public servants, an official of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) said Wednesday.

Dapat walang itinatago d’yan [There should be nothing hidden there]. Dapat we are ready to show the people how we accumulate our wealth while we are working in government,” said CSC Assistant Commissioner for Legal Affairs Ariel Ronquillo during an interview with reporters at the Senate.

Ronquillo made the pronouncement after the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that at least 28 Cabinet members submitted Statements of Assets, Liabilites and Net Worth with their addresses and the acquisition costs of their personal and real properties blacked out.

The CSC official said everybody must know that public servants must not use their positions in the government to make themselves rich through illegal means.

Para sa kaalaman ng lahat na hindi natin ginagamit ang ating position to unlawfully enrich ourselves,” said Ronquillo.

“We have to remind them that these are instruments of transparency and therefore should be made available for inspection upon lawful request,” he added.

The PCIJ said Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar had the most number of SALN redactions.

The following were blacked out in Andanar’s SALN, according to the PCIJ: filer’s address; spouse’s office address; name, date of birth, and age of unmarried minor children; description of real properties; exact location of real properties; acquisition costs of real properties; acquisition costs/amounts of personal properties; outstanding balance of liabilities; business address of business interests and financial connections; and ID No. of filer and/or spouse.

Next to Andanar are Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Department of Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial, who each had nine blacked out pieces of information in their declarations.

Omitted in the Ubial and Aguirre’s SALNs were filer’s address; ID No. of filer and/or spouse; acquisition costs of real properties; acquisition costs/amounts of personal properties; exact location of real properties; outstanding balance of liabilities; and spouse’s office address.

Also blacked out in Aguirre’s SALN were the address of his business interests and financial connections and the description of his real properties.

In Ubial’s declarations, the following were also redacted: name of o her creditor and name, date of birth, and age of her unmarried minor children.

Ronquillo said on Wednesday that under the CSC’s guidelines, the only portion that could be shaded in the SALN is the filer’s address.

Sa guidelines na in-issue namin, ang p’wede lang i-shade ay ‘yong address ng filer.”

Last Tuesday, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV filed a resolution urging the Senate to investigate the removal of information from the SALNs of Cabinet officials.

Trillanes said the Senate needed to know whether there was a law violated with the SALN redactions, including the executive order on freedom of information issued by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The senator added that it appeared that there were a “special breed” of public officials and employees under the administration because the Office of the President did not question why they submitted redacted declarations.

But Ronquillo on Wednesday said Cabinet officials should not be immediately blamed for the redactions as it could be possible that other individuals were behind the shading of some information in their declarations.

“We cannot attribute that automatically to the filer kasi hindi naman sila ang nag-shade. As far as they are concerned, nag-file sila ng SALN na kumpleto. Kung shinade ‘yon ng iba, baka hindi natin p’wedeng sabihin na kasalanan nila ‘yon automatically.”

[We cannot attribute that automatically to the filers because they were not the ones who shaded it. As far as they are concerned, they filed complete SALNs. If the documents were shaded by others, we can’t automatically say that it’s their fault.]

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