In this Dec. 10, 2019 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte witnesses the program proper during the Thanksgiving party for the beneficiaries of the killed-in-action soldiers and killed-in-police operation personnel under the Comprehensive Social Benefits Program at the Malacañan Palace.
Presidential Photo/Alfred Frias
New Ombudsman guidelines delay release of Duterte's SALN — PCOO
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - December 13, 2019 - 2:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has not yet released his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for 2018 due to pending guidelines on public access to the document.

The Office of the Ombudsman has yet to release the revised guidelines on public access to SALN of government officials.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) noted that all requests for copies of SALNs of government officials need approval from Ombudsman Samuel Martires.

"We appreciate that the Office of the Ombudsman will soon come up with the revised guidelines on public access to SALN," PCOO Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan said in a letter to Philstar.com.

This was in response to an article by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism titled "Duterte's secret SALN: The lie of his FOI".

The PCIJ report noted that Duterte has not yet released his SALN for 2018, becoming the first president in the last 30 years that did not release his or her SALN.

Ablan, however, pointed out that there are procedures to follow in releasing the president's SALN.

"Inasmuch as we want to take things expeditiously, there are procedures that we have to follow and be mindful of," Ablan said.

The PCOO also noted that the SALN is an important document under Executive Order 2 or the Freedom of Information EO.

Under Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution, "A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth."

This covers the president, vice president, members of the Cabinet, the Congress, Supreme Court, constitutional commissions and other constitutional offices and officers of the military with general or flag rank, in accordance with the law.

Ablan noted that under Ombudsman memorandum circular 3 series of 2012 and Civil Service Commission Resolution 1500088, the SALN of the president should be submitted, kept and stored with the Office of the Ombudsman.

The PCOO official reiterated that request for the document must be made with the Ombudsman.

"This is a call to our Honorable legislators to heed the people's clamor for a landmark legislation which would unify the rules on the right of access to government information. And with this legislation, definitely it will take precedence over other existing transparency and accountability laws," Ablan said.

In the report, PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas said multiple separate requests of the PCIJ and the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition for Duterte's 2018 SALN "have been tossed back and forth" between the Office of the Executive Secretary and the Office of the Ombudsman.

"Invariably, all such requests filed in a series from June to November 2019 were denied because of an identical reason: The Ombudsman has yet to finalize its new guidelines on the release of the SALNs of the President and other senior officials," the PCIJ report read.

The PCIJ also noted that neither of the offices have explained why there was a need for new guidelines when past Ombudsmen had already issued guidelines for procedures of getting copies of SALNs.

"The spirit and letter of Duterte’s own Executive Order No. 2 that operationalized Freedom of Information in the entire executive branch also requires the full public disclosure of, among other public documents, the SALN of all executive officials -- himself included," the PCIJ said.

KRIS ABLAN PHILIPPINE CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OPERATIONS OFFICE RODRIGO DUTERTE SALN STATEMENT OF ASSETS LIABILITIES AND NET WORTH
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