Ang Probinsyano Partylist Rep. Ronnie Ong on Friday, Oct. 22 said he should be counted out either as author or supporter of any legislative proposal that would curtail the freedom of the press and the right to information of Filipinos.
Ong made this clear when asked to comment on the reported draft bill sent by Ombudsman Samuel Martires to certain members of the Lower House in connection with proposals fo amend Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
RA 6713 makes it mandatory for government officials and employees to submit annually their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth covering the previous year.
“Public officials should not prohibit media or any Filipino from commenting on theri SALN, it is a public document,” said Ong, vice chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
“I will not co-author this bill if they ask me. Neither will I vote for its passage if it contains the said objectionable provision,” he stated.
Earlier, Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Jesus “Bong” Suntay slammed the proposal, saying it violates important provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
“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.
Martires has reportedly presented his bill to Zarate to ask for his comment.
Under the draft 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.”
“I believe media should not be restricted from commenting in published SALN of any government official,” stated Suntay, who is a lawyer.
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.”