SALN must be public so people can see who has hidden wealth - expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2022 07:15 PM

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MANILA — A media law expert said Tuesday withholding Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth from the public is illegal.

Lawyer Marichu Lambino, a media law and ethics professor at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, said all public officers and employees are required to submit a declaration of their assets, liabilities and net worth under oath according to Article XI, Section 17 of the Constitution.

"Kapag hindi po nilalabas ang SALN o stonewall, 'yung hinaharangan, naglalagay ng maraming balakid, naglalagay ng maraming requirements, ang tawag dun stonewalling, 'yun po ay paglabag sa batas," she told TeleRadyo.

The law also states that in the case of the President, the Vice-President, the members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the armed forces with general or flag rank, the declaration shall be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.

Meanwhile, Lambino said Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees also provides that "public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit declarations under oath of, and the public has the right to know, their assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under 18 years of age living in their households."

Her response comes after presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. rejected making public his SALN should he win the presidency in this year's elections.

Marcos said SALNs could be weaponized for political attacks and that giving the media access to the document may also be used by political opponents.He however said he was willing to give his SALN to the courts or any appropriate board. 

Lambino said SALNs are not used to politically attack government officials but uncover hidden wealth.

"Nais lang po nating ilinaw na ang pag-file ng SALN at paglabas ng SALN ay hindi ito ginagamit sa politika, kung hindi pagsugpo sa korapsyon," she said. "Ginagamit ito upang makita natin kung sino ang may hidden wealth or unexplained wealth."