Ombudsman decries 'wiretapping' by PCIJ, mum on Duterte SALN release
Ombudsman Samuel Martires claimed that he was not aware that his conversation about President Rodrigo Duterte's SALN with PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas was on the record.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, File
Ombudsman decries 'wiretapping' by PCIJ, mum on Duterte SALN release
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - December 18, 2019 - 5:24pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 9:22 p.m.) — Ombudsman Samuel Martires denied giving any interview to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) about President Rodrigo Duterte's Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

Last week, the PCIJ released a report about Duterte's failure to release his SALN eight months after the April 30 deadline for the filing of the document.

In the report, journalist Malou Mangahas quoted Martires saying the SALN can be obtained from the Office of the President and the Office of the Executive Secretary.

The Ombudsman was also quoted saying that the SALN issue is a "complicated matter."

READ: Duterte’s secret SALN: The lie of his FOI

Martires, meanwhile, accused Mangahas of violating the Anti-Wiretapping Law for allegedly recording their conversation when the journalist supposedly did not ask for permission to do so.

According to Martires, he was coming from a "health break" during an event at Diamond Hotel in Manila when Mangahas approached him and identified herself as a GMA reporter.

Mangahas is PCIJ executive director and host of public affairs program "Investigative Documentaries" on GMA Network.

"In her first question about the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, I directly said the issue was complicated and if we could talk about it some other day in my office," Martires said in Filipino.

Martires, however, said he would not have agreed to give the interview even if Mangahas asked for permission.

The Ombudsman said he was surprised when the article titled "Duterte’s secret SALN: The lie of his FOI" came out appearing that there was a formal interview about the matter.

Journalists often engage news sources like government officials in chance or "ambush" interviews.

READ: PCIJ: Martires interview recorded openly at public forum

In a statement on Wednesday night, PCIJ said that "Ombudsman Martires knew that as a public official with expertise and mandate on the issues raised, he was speaking face to face with a journalist with a legitimate journalistic purpose, on a matter of public interest."

It added that "the conversation occurred in a public space and even with the full knowledge and in full view of his own personnel from the Office of the Ombudsman."

In the same statement, PCIJ pointed out that "Malou was holding her phone to record the interview, in full view of both Ombudsman Martires and Atty. Rawnsie Lopez" and that "was well aware that what transpired was a proper interview, a public conversation between a journalist and a public official, on a matter of public concern."

Martires: I also have duty to protect rights of government officials, workers

Martires also accused the journalist of using him to criticize Duterte's executive order on freedom on information.

While he acknowledged that the public has the right to access the SALN of government officials, Martires said it is also his duty to protect the rights of government officials and employees under Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Amidst his tirades against Mangahas, Martires did not answer the issue on the release of Duterte's SALN for 2018.

PCOO Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan earlier said the Office of the Ombudsman's pending guidelines on public access to SALN of government officials delay the release of Duterte's SALN.

"We appreciate that the Office of the Ombudsman will soon come up with the revised guidelines on public access to SALN," Ablan told Philstar.com

MALOU MANGAHAS PHILIPPINE CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM SALN SAMUEL MARTIRES
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