MANILA — The lawyer who was given the run-around in his bid to secure the President’s statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) went straight to the source and challenged Mister Duterte himself to release his SALN or issue an authorization.
Lawyer Dino De Leon, in a letter dated September 10, pressed the President to reconsider the earlier decision of the Malacanang Records Office referring him to the Office of the Ombudsman.
“I respectfully request you to revisit the MRO’s earlier decision to refuse the issuance of your SALN. Instead, you can, motu propio, provide the undersigned with a certified copy of all your SALNs ever since you assumed office in 2016,” he said.
“Should you find this unacceptable for whatever reason, you are instead requested to provide the undersigned the necessary notarized authorization from you,” he added.
De Leon’s earlier request was turned down by Malacanang on the ground that a 2012 memorandum circular from the Office of the Ombudsman requires that all requests for the President’s SALN should be coursed through them as the official repository.
But the Ombudsman, in July, denied De Leon’s request, referring to a more recent memorandum circular requiring a notarized authorization from the public official who filed the SALN.
Reacting to the denial, De Leon told ANC he will look at the possible legal remedies, which could include going to court.
He also raised the possibility of impeaching Martires, saying his actions in hindering transparency could be considered betrayal of public trust, an impeachable offense.
Lawyer Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, said Ombudsman Samuel Martires’ memorandum circular, in effect, limited access to SALNS only to the public official who filed the SALN or his/her authorized representative, a court which issued a lawful order or the Ombudsman’s field investigation units, bureaus or offices — all public officials which are not the “public” the Constitution spoke of.
The Right to Know Right Now! Coalition noted this is the first time an Ombudsman has restricted access to SALNs and to propose jailtime against those who would comment on SALNs.
Article XI, section 17 of the Constitution requires the President and other high-ranking officials to disclose their SALNs to the public.
The coalition, along with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, also pointed out that Duterte is the first Philippine president in 30 years not to release his SALNs starting in 2018.
This, despite signing an executive order reminding public officials to disclose their SALNs at the start of his term in 2016.
“Given your claim that you are for transparency and against corruption, I look forward to your positive response within 5 days from receipt of this letter,” De Leon challenged Duterte in his letter.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said the President filed his SALN and anyone who wants to get a copy should go to the Ombudsman.