Ombudsman Samuel Martires said he wants jail time of not less than five years for those who will make public comments on the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of elected and appointed officials.
He said Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees as well as Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act must be reconciled.
“I want to reconcile 6713 with 3019 on the SALN and provide safety nets so that a SALN can be published but no person should be allowed to comment on the SALN of a particular government official or employee,” Martires told members of the House Appropriations Committee during deliberations for his agency’s proposed 2022 budget.
Martires said RA 6713 does not allow public comment on any SALN as he suggested “stringent penalties” of not less than five years imprisonment.
“What is happening right now is we compare the SALN of this government official, current year and the previous year. If there is an increase, they will immediately say why did the net worth increase?” he said.
“I am a victim of that. I had wanted to prove to my staff what the media can do to destroy a government official. I gave my SALN. What happened? The following day, it was the banner story in one of the leading newspapers. ‘Ombudsman richer by P15M in five months.’ It was as if I earned P5 million per month.”
“I don’t know if they [media] understand English also. But the provision of 6713 is very clear. Only for publication. No commentary,” Martires added.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate questioned the Ombudsman’s position, which he described as “very dangerous.”
“Isn’t it very dangerous that we will penalize our people simply because they are asking. Our Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and also the principles of transparency and accountability,” Zarate said.
Meanwhile, Martires said the SALN of President Rodrigo Duterte will be kept out of the public eye as he maintained his office would abide by a policy issued last year on restricting the public’s access to SALNs.
Martires was referring to the Sept. 1, 2020 Memorandum Circular restricting the access to public officials’ SALN by requiring the consent of the statement’s owner before a SALN request can be evaluated by the Ombudsman’s office.
“There are conditions there on when we should release the SALN of a particular government official. In the absence of compliance with any of these provisions, we are not going to release the SALN,” Martires told legislators.