Lower House official slams Ombudman's draft bill to amend SALN law

Published October 21, 2021, 6:23 PM

by Ben Rosario

House Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City 4th District Rep. Jesus “Bong” Suntay slammed the proposal of Ombudsman Samuel Martires to penalize commentaries made by members of the media on the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth submitted by a government official or employee.

Rep. Jesus ‘Bong’ Suntay
The first term lawmaker is the first member of the Lower House to assail Martires’ proposal which is contained in the draft bill the anti-graft official sent to members of Congress.

“How a public official generates his wealth is a matter of public concern, thus, information regarding his or her SALN should not be withheld,” Suntay said, apparently chiding Martires who has reportedly refused to grant reporters access to SALN submissions of government officials, including that of the President.

“The SALN is a public document if should be made available to the public,” the House official said.

“I believe media should not be restricted from commenting in published SALN of any government official,” stated Suntay, who is a lawyer.

Martires has reportedly presented his bill to a number of lawmakers, hoping that somebody will file it in Congress.

The Ombudsman’s legislative measure proposes to amend Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Section 8 of RA 6713 mandates government officials and employees to “accomplish and submit declarations under oath of” their assets, liabilities, networht, financial and business interests including those of their spouses and unmarried children under 18 years old.” This provision emphasizes that “the public has the right to know” the SALN of government workers.

Suntay cited Article 11 of the 1987 Constitution that emphasizes that public officers and employees “must at all times be accountable to the people.” He also pointed out that Article 3, Section 7 of the charter clearly provides that the state must uphold the right of people to information on matters of public concern.” In his bill, Martires proposed that use of news and communications media of submitted SALN “shall be strictly limited to reporting of facts provided in the statement and no further commentaries could be made thereon.” Various groups, including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Right to Know Right Now (R2KRN) criticized the Martires proposal as a blatant violation of various laws and provisions of the Constitution, including those cited by Suntay.