By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang has urged the House of Representatives to further review its strict rules on the release of Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of lawmakers to avoid possible challenges about their legality.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo has expressed concern that the House resolution requiring plenary approval for public access to the SALN of congressmen might be considered a violation of the country’s laws.
“We hope the House deliberates more on this because it may be running the risk of being questioned later on,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing.
The House of Representatives has adopted Resolution No. 2467 setting the new rules on public access to the SALNs of congressmen and regular employees. Under the resolution, a SALN request must be approved by the House majority in a plenary session.
Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, however, found that such plenary approval only adds to the burden of the people in obtaining access to the SALNs of lawmakers.
“Any additional burden to get the SALN may be a transgression of the Constitution because the Constitution provides that SALN should be given to the public. And also there is the constitutional provision on accountability of
public officials,” he said.
“That’s an additional burden when you have to pass through all the members of Congress,” he added.
He noted that in the Executive branch, President Duterte has signed an order allowing public access to certain government documents and information.
“As far as the executive department is concerned, we issued an EO on freedom of information because we want SALNs to be readily available to the public,” he added.
In July 2016, President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 2 mandating the full public disclosure of information in offices under the executive branch to promote transparency.
The public can request access to government records via the official Freedom of Information (FOI) website or offices within the executive branch. Exempted from the information requests are data related to national security, executive privilege, and those that may jeopardize privacy.