Ombudsman blocks public access to SALNs of top gov’t officials

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    THE job of checking for ill-gotten wealth of public officials just got a lot harder.

    In a memorandum signed last September 1, Ombudsman Samuel Martires restricted access to the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) of top government officials to only three entities: the declarant (the official who filed the SALN) or his authorized representative; a person authorized by the court in relation to a pending case; and an investigator of the Office of the Ombudsman.

    In all instances, the Ombudsman has the final authority whether to grant the request or not.

    Under all previous Ombudsmans, journalists, researchers, and other government officials were allowed to secure copies of SALNs filed with the anti-corruption body subject to specific conditions including the filing of a formal request and payment of the required fee.

    But with the issuance of Memorandum Circular No. 1 S. 2020, the only way members of the media and other parties may see the SALNs is if the declarant himself or herself will issue an authorization allowing it.

    In the case of Vice President Leni Robredo, the Office of the Vice President has routinely released copies of her SALNs to reporters and researchers who submit official requests under the Freedom of Information rules.

    The Office of the Ombudsman is the repository of the SALNs of the President, the Vice-President, chairperson and commissioners of constitutional bodies, the Ombudsman and deputies, officials of executive departments, bureaus, other government agencies including government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs), state universities and colleges, local government executives, and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

    All public officials who submitted their SALNs to the Ombudsman are likewise assured that they can identify who have seen the said document as all request forms will be treated as public record and be made available to the said official at his request.

    If a concerned citizen believes a public official has amassed ill-gotten wealth but his request for a copy of the SALN is denied, he is encouraged to submit a verified complaint to the Ombudsman together with any evidence he might have in support of the allegation.