As­set state­ments

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

THE new rules on the re­lease of state­ments of as­sets, li­a­bil­i­ties and net worth (SALN) of House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives mem­bers could ren­der use­less sev­eral laws meant to pre­vent govern­ment abuse.

The SALN con­tains in­for­ma­tion such as net worth, prop­er­ties, busi­ness in­ter­ests, fi­nan­cial con­nec­tions, in­clud­ing those of their spouses and mi­nor chil­dren. It also re­quires dis­clo­sure of rel­a­tives in govern­ment po­si­tions.

Lim­it­ing ac­cess to this in­for­ma­tion could ren­der as in­ef­fec­tive laws on the pub­lic’s right to in­for­ma­tion, and against po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties and cor­rup­tion.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives is­sued last week Res­o­lu­tion No. 2467 stat­ing that re­quests for SALN copies of House mem­bers are to be filed with the sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s of­fice in a pre­scribed form and re­leases would have to be ap­proved by the House in ple­nary ses­sion.

The dead­line for the fil­ing of SALN is on April 30. Re­quests for copies of SALN can be made im­me­di­ately but re­lease of these would have to be ap­proved in ple­nary ses­sion or by ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers.

The one re­quest­ing for SALN copies would have to dis­close per­sonal in­for­ma­tion and pur­pose of re­quest. Me­dia peo­ple have to present an af­fi­davit of af­fil­i­a­tion and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion that he or she is a le­git­i­mate prac­ti­tioner, re­ports said.

Not all in­for­ma­tion will be made avail­able. For “pri­vacy and se­cu­rity rea­sons,” the di­rec­tor of the House records man­age­ment ser­vice may “redact or blacken” cer­tain sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion such as ad­dress, lo­ca­tion of prop­er­ties, busi­ness and fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests and names of rel­a­tives in govern­ment ser­vice, re­ports said.

If the re­quest is ap­proved, the one re­quest­ing will have to pay P300 for ev­ery copy. Get­ting copies of all 300 House mem­bers will cost the re­quest­ing per­son P90,000.

With all these lim­i­ta­tions, it is doubt­ful if the pub­lic could still check cor­rup­tion or if govern­ment is sin­cere in its prom­ise of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity. The long process in get­ting this in­for­ma­tion and the costs in­volved in se­cur­ing copies are road­blocks put in place even be­fore the mem­ber’s in­ter­ests and ties could be ex­am­ined.

There’s the free­dom of in­for­ma­tion that man­dates the re­lease of govern­ment in­for­ma­tion so the pub­lic may know. Al­though Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der on free­dom of in­for­ma­tion cov­ers only those in the ex­ec­u­tive branch, the lim­i­ta­tion im­posed by the House be­comes more omi­nous.

There’s also the con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion against po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties. How can this anti-po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty pro­vi­sion be in­voked if de­tails about a House mem­ber’s rel­a­tives in govern­ment can­not be dis­closed?

Then, there are anti-cor­rup­tion ef­forts that could no longer be pur­sued if prop­er­ties owned by law­mak­ers, their spouses and mi­nor chil­dren can­not be known. Imag­ine if the new rules were in ef­fect at the time Joseph Estrada was Pres­i­dent. His for­tunes would not have been re­vealed.

These new rules by the House on SALN re­leases give the im­pres­sion there is no trans­parency in govern­ment./ Sun­star Cebu

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