Reporting on SALN will be 'a risk' if Ombudsman's proposal adopted: journos' group


Posted at Oct 22 2021 07:47 AM

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MANILA - Reporting on government officials' Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) will be a risk for journalists if the Ombudsman Samuel Martires' proposal comes to fruition, the chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said Thursday.

Martires had told lawmakers during his agency's budget deliberations that he wants laws on the release of SALNs of public personnel reconciled. He also proposed jail time for those who make commentaries on such documents.

For Jonathan de Santos, chairman of the NUJP, this "vague" proposal seems like "censorship," with a government agency dictating "what we can write or what we can report about based on public documents."

"It is a problem for the press kasi restricted na nga yung access mo (because your access is already restricted), then there’s this prospect na you could be penalized for commenting on SALN, on these documents—whatever that means, kung ano man commenting na yun (whatever commenting is). It’s so vague. Basically, you’re taking a risk when reporting," he told ANC's Headstart.

De Santos noted that Martires himself cited an example where he was supposedly targeted by a report on his SALN, where the journalist pointed out that his wealth grew when he became Ombudsman.

"I checked the stories, wala namang commentary dun. It was really just factual and it even explained bakit tumaas—kasi the real property value went up. It doesn’t imply any corruption on his part, wala namang ganun. It’s just a fact na tumaas yung wealth niya," he said.

(I checked the stories, there were no commentaries there. It was really just factual and it even explained why it went up—because the real property value went up. It doesn't imply any corruption on his part, nothing like that. It's just a fact that his wealth increased.)

De Santos said NUJP and fellow transparency advocates are hoping to get their input into the draft bill and be able to change its language to a "more open version." 

Asked if they are looking to bring this to the Supreme Court, he said: "It’s a possibility. We’ll have to discuss it with other advocates."