TWO prominent congressmen have moved to call for an investigation in aid of legislation into a constitutional provision mandating the annual submission of Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net-Worth of government official and employees.
Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor and Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta asked the House Committee on Public Accountability to conduct an inquiry into existing laws pertaining to the filing of SALN by all government officials and employees.
Citing Section 17 Article XI of the Philippine Constitution, Defensor sought some enlightenment on what appears to be a selective nature of the law when the Supreme Court denied motions that would compel Associate Justice Marvin Leonen to present his SALN covering the years while he was working as a faculty member of the state-run University of the Philippines.
In his proposed resolution, Defensor cited the “right of every Filipino to know by providing the manner by which the SALN of the public official may be obtained” even as he took note that “the same provision includes a waiver authorizing the Ombudsman or his authorized representatives to obtain documents that may show assets, liabilities, net worth, business interests and financial connections from all appropriate government agencies.”
Defensor further underscored the need to apply transparency and consistency, adding that the grounds for quo warranto case against former Supreme Court Justice Lourdes Sereno. The quo warranto proceedings rendered the submission of SALN among government officials as “constitutional and statutory requirement that helps establish the integrity – or lack thereof, by a public official.”
The resolution went as far as delving into details that saw flagrant similarities in the predicaments of the former Chief Justice Sereno and concurrent Associate Justice Marvic Leonen. Interestingly, both Sereno and Leonen had stints in other government offices prior to their appointment to the high tribunal.
However, the high tribunal ruled to deny a petition that cited Sereno’s years of prior stints in the government where she supposedly failed to submit SALN for which she was forced to step down amid an imminent impeachment, as basis and precedent in asking SC to compel Leonen to present in public his SALN covering his academic teaching profession in UP.
Defensor maintains, there is every reason to fire from any government post a public official who’d continue to defy the law – especially in an institution mandated to judiciously interpret the law.
“Failure to file the SALN is clearly a violation of the law. The offense is penal in character and is a clear breach of the ethical standards set for public officials and employees. It disregards the requirement of transparency as a deterrent to graft and corruption. For these reasons, a public official who has failed to comply with the requirement of filing the SALN cannot be said ofthe Defensor’s House resolution.