Restriction of public access to SALNs unconstitutional: ex-senator

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 17 2020 09:54 AM

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MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman's limitation of public access to government officials' Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) is unconstitutional and violative of the law, a former senator said Thursday.

The Constitution, Republic Act 6713 or A Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and the law's implementing rules are "very clear" that SALNs shall be available to the public, according to the law's author former senator Joey Lina.

"I believe so. The Constitution very clearly states that the public officials and employees are mandated to file under oath their SALNs and the manner of disclosure shall be provided by law and we have the RA 6713," Lina told ANC when asked if the Ombudsman's memorandum violates the Constitution.
 
"Why restrict access when the law is very clear? Any memo or even executive order of the Office of the President cannot take precedence over the laws which is passed by Congress."

The only exception is the SALNs of public officials and employees cannot be used for commercial purposes, Lina said.

"The higher (interest) must prevail and that’s the interest of the public. That’s primordial, the constitutionally guaranteed right of people to have access to public information," he said.

The Ombudsman order can be questioned before the courts, he added.

"The court,under our system of laws, has the power to review and rule upon in an appropriate case whether this memorandum circular is violative of the law or unconstitutional even," he said.