ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro urged the Office of the Ombudsman Wednesday to get rid of its memorandum circular that restricts public access to government officials’ Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs), saying it has “no legal basis.”
During the House plenary deliberations on the Ombudsman’s proposed P3.36-billion budget for 2021, the Makabayan lawmaker questioned the anti-graft body’s basis for issuing Memorandum Circular No. 1 which provides tighter rules for SALN access.
“Ang hamon ay for the Ombudsan na reviewhin ang memo na ito. China-challenge ko po ang Office of the Ombudsman na ibasura ang memorandum na ito (The challenge is for the Ombudsman to review this memo. I am challenging the Office of the Ombudsman to junk this memorandum),” she said.
“Ito po ay walang basehan sa batas at (This has no legal basis and) it runs counter to the constitution and to the law,” she added.
The Ombudsman’s circular dated Sept. 1 lays down three conditions before the release of SALNs — if he or she is the declarant or the duly authorized representatives of the declarant; the request is upon lawful order of the court in relation to a pending case, and if the request is made through the Office of the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office for the purpose of a fact-finding probe.
According to Castro, Republic Act No. 6713, also known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, clearly provides that “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 18 years of age living in their households.”
Citing RA 6713, she said any and all statements filed under the Act shall be made available for inspection at reasonable hours.
She even reminded such statements shall be made available for copying or reproduction after 10 working days from the time they are filed as required by law.
RA 6713 states that any person requesting a copy of a statement shall be required to pay a reasonable fee to cover the cost of reproduction and mailing of such statement, as well as the cost of certification, Castro noted.
Under the law, any statement filed under this Act shall be available to the public for a period of 10 years after receipt of the statement and after such period, the statement may be destroyed unless needed in an ongoing investigation, she added.
“The memorandum circular bastardized the words of the law and reverse the meaning in some parts,” Castro said.
“Wala pong basehan itong memorandum circular na ito . Kung jpagpapatuloy ang memorandum na ito ay nangangamba ako na ito na magiging norms magiging satndard ng lahat ng opisina na wala ng access ang ating publiko sa SALN ng ating mga empleyado at opisyal,” he stressed.
(This memorandum circular has no basis. If this memorandum will be implemented continuously, I am worrying that this will become norms and standard in all offices that there will be no public access to the SALN of our employees and officials)