House now requires 'majority consent' before SALN access

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 31 2019 07:32 PM

MANILA - The public will now need the majority consent of lawmakers in order to access their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), under a new House rule that one opposition lawmaker finds repressive.

The House of Representatives under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has adopted House Resolution 2467, which details rules for public access to the SALN of congressmen and regular employees of the chamber.

In previous Congresses, the House has only released summary reports of the SALNs of congressmen instead of actual SALNs. This has been the practice even under past House Speakers.

Individual requests for SALNs of lawmakers will have to be filed before the Secretary General’s Office, except for those covered by subpoena duces tecum.

There is a prescribed form and they will have to submit photocopies of at least 2 government IDs. Members of the media must submit proof under oath of media affiliation and a certification of the accreditation of the media organization.

Students may also file requests accompanied with a photocopy of a valid school ID, certification of the school that it is to be used for an academic paper and a certification that the student is enrolled.

Moreover, the requesting party shall certify under oath that the request does not constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy and the name of the owner of the requested SALN shall not be disclosed but referred to in general terms in cases where the request is made for academic purposes as to protect the House member, officer or employee from unnecessary disclosures.

If the request for a SALN is approved, the requesting party has to pay P300 per copy of the SALN.

The rules excludes from its coverage consultants and those serving in honorary capacity, laborers and casual or temporary workers.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the resolution imposes "stringent and repressive requirements for the public" to access the SALNs of lawmakers.

“What is so sacrosanct about the contents of a Representative’s SALN that the access to it by the public and media is made inordinately restrictive and tedious as contained in the proposed House Resolution No. 1410 on the Rules referring to, among others, access to SALNs of Members of the House?” he said.

“Topping the stringent procedure is the condition that any request for access and disclosure must have the imprimatur of the majority in plenary session.”

Lagman wants the new leadership of the House and his colleagues to collectively review and liberalize the proposed rules to assure transparency and ready access to the said SALNs.

“If we have nothing to hide, why make public access to and disclosure of SALNs, which are public documents, extremely difficult to the extent of discouraging and deterring applicants from securing copies of said SALNs?” he said.