'To protect our members': Access to solons' SALNs by request, says Speaker

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 13 2021 07:43 PM

MANILA— House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Thursday said those who want access to lawmakers' wealth report should write to their special committee, a safeguard to "protect" their members from political persecution.

"Iyung request if they want a copy of the SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth), you just have to write [to] that special committee on SALN, and then syempre tinitingnan lang naman natin yung problema natin with the SALN (and we're just looking at our problem with the SALN), sometimes it may be used as a weapon for political purposes," Velasco said.

Under the country's charter, all public officials and employees, whether regular or under temporary status, are required to file a SALN.

In 2019, the House of Representatives under Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo adopted House Resolution 2467, which required majority consent of lawmakers for the disclosure of their SALNs.

In previous Congresses, the House has only released summary reports of the SALNs of chamber members instead of their full wealth and liabilities reports. This had been the practice even under past House Speakers.

Velasco said the issue of the SALN is "touchy" and could be weaponized against their members. Elections are coming up in just over a year.

"I hope people would understand na 'yung issue sa SALN sometimes medyo touchy and we have to actually protect 'yung members natin baka gamitin lang pantira at panira sa mga members natin sa Congress," Velasco said. 

(I hope people would understand that the issue of the SALN is sometimes a bit touchy and we have to actually protect our members that this might just be used to hit them and destroy their names.)

Making public the SALNs of top government officials is important in ensuring transparency and accountability as it helps in the lifestyle check of officials.

Several public officers have been removed from their posts over issues with their SALNs, prominently the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The Office of the Ombudsman in 2020 issued a memorandum in which it said "no SALN will be furnished to the requester" unless authorized by the public official who had filed the document requested.

The memorandum has been widely criticized by transparency advocates. 

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— Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News