MANILA — Malacañang said on Friday it "respects" the proposal of Ombudsman Samuel Martires to jail people who make public comments on the wealth declaration of officials, access to which he restricted last year.
President Rodrigo Duterte's Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) have been kept out of public eye since Martires limited access last year. On Thursday, the Ombudsman suggested those commenting publicly on the document may be jailed for 5 yers.
"Nirerespeto namin ang mga opinyon ng Ombudsman dahil siya po ay isang constitutional body. We respect his opinion," Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque said in a press briefing.
(We respect the opinion of the Ombudsman because it is a constitutional body.)
The Office of the Ombudsman last year issued a memorandum that allowed the SALN release only for official investigations, by court order, or upon authority from officials themselves.
Robredo in late August said it was better for Duterte to disclose his SALN to bolster his anti-corruption stance, instead of promising to audit the whole government if he is elected as vice president next year.
Roque said the President "complied with his constitutional duty to submit or file his SALN."
"The stance of the Office of the President has been clear and consistent: We leave it to the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional body, to release to the public President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth," Roque said in a statement.
"Interested parties may therefore wish to write a formal communication to the Office of the Ombudsman, which has copies of SALNs of all public officials, asking for a copy of the said document," he added.
Rep. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela said "Martires' proposal to criminalize commentaries on the SALN of public officials will inhibit the people's right to free speech," as it will "ridiculously" send "a chilling effect for an act that should not even be treated as a crime."
"Bakit gagawing krimen ang pagiging mapagmatyag sa yaman ng mga nakaupong opisyal, pero hindi iniimbestigahan ang mga opisyal na sangkot sa maling paggamit ng pondo ng bayan sa panahon ng pandemya?" she said.
(Why is being vigilant against the wealth of incumbent officials being criminalized, while officials who are involved in wrongful use of public funds during the pandemic are not being investigated?)
Brosas said "SALNs are supposedly public documents, and public interpretations based on such should be allowed."
"Any attempt to clip free discourse on the wealth of public officials is a direct attack on free speech, and a move to shield sitting officers from public scrutiny," she said.