MANILA – Malacañang on Monday said that if warranted, the executive branch is open to an investigation into the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of the Cabinet members of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) has noted in a recent in-depth report that some details of Cabinet members' SALNs were heavily redacted, even though the Civil Service Commission’s guidelines only allow agencies to shade the declarant’s address “for purposes of security.”
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, however, said the Data Privacy Act allows the government to redact some of the data in the SALNs it deems sensitive.
“The redaction is due to the fact that some personal private matters cannot be revealed,” Abella said in a news conference.
In its report, the PCIJ said several redactions were made on the copies of SALNs it received from the Palace, such as the description, exact location and acquisition costs of real properties, as well as the acquisition costs/amounts of personal properties.
Also redacted were the addresses of business interests and financial connections of the Cabinet members, and outstanding balance of liabilities.
As to the redaction of the acquisition costs of the of the real properties, which was one of the main issues during the impeachment trial of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona, Abella said the summary of the amounts of such should be sufficient.
“Certain items are held private and that the actual amounts are --- the actual summarized amounts are given… That is the wisdom of the law that surrounds it,” Abella said.
The spokesperson, however, said a “follow through” can be made if questions are raised over the properties of the Cabinet members.
“[The] full disclosure has been made regarding the summarized amounts. And so from there, if indeed there is an investigation that needs to be done, then it can be followed through if these things are deemed suspect,” he said.
“These disclosures are not meant to be the total disclosure of the thing. In other words, if investigation is need to be done, it may be done.”
While the executive branch has pointed to the Data Privacy Act as its justification in redacting certain details in the SALNs, the PCIJ quoted in its report CSC Assistant Commissioner Ariel G. Ronquillo as saying that the SALN Law and CSC guidelines should prevail.