MANILA – Malacañang on Wednesday insisted that it did not commit any violation of the law when its records office redacted certain details in the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of cabinet members.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella made this pronouncement in light of moves in the Senate to look into possible violations related to the release of redacted SALNs of President Rodrigo Duterte's appointees.
“Implementation of FOI (freedom of information) is a learning process, especially with the concurrent application of the Data Privacy Act. The Executive has raised the SALN issue with the National Privacy Commission (NPC) and we are waiting for their guidance,” Abella said in a statement.
“Meanwhile, we reiterate that there were no violations committed related to the release of SALNs of some Cabinet members. The Executive would cooperate and would attend the investigation on SALNs if and once called by the Senate.”
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, chair of the Senate committee on civil service, government reorganization, and professional regulation, recently filed a resolution calling for a probe into the matter.
Trillanes’ resolution was triggered by a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) in-depth report which noted that some details of Cabinet members' SALNs were heavily redacted. This while the Civil Service Commission’s guidelines only allow agencies to shade the declarant’s address “for purposes of security."
Freedom of information advocates slammed the executive branch’s move to redact certain information in the SALNs, such as the description, exact location and acquisition costs of real properties, as well as the acquisition costs or amounts of personal properties.
Also redacted were the addresses of business interests and financial connections of the cabinet members, and their outstanding debt.
The NPC, in a news conference on Tuesday, clarified that information on the assets and liabilities of cabinet members need not be redacted. This prompted a Palace official to declare that if requested, new SALNs with fewer redactions would be released.
Under criticism, the Palace previously said the Data Privacy Act allows for the redaction of certain information in SALNs of cabinet members.
But the PCIJ quoted in its report CSC Assistant Commissioner Ariel Ronquillo as saying that the SALN Law and CSC guidelines should prevail.