SALN release better than Duterte promise to lead audits, Robredo says

SALN release better than Duterte promise to lead audits, Robredo says
In this Feb. 26, 2019 photo, Vice President Leni Robredo talks during the Ka Pepe Diokno Human rights award at De La Salle University in Manila.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo said Sunday that President Rodrigo Duterte can release his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth to show transparency in the face of investigations over audit reports on government spending.

This comes after Duterte, who has said he will run for vice president, claimed he would audit government agencies as vice president. This was in response to backlash over his tirade against the Commission on Audit, which flagged deficiencies in government departments' spending of pandemic funds. 

Speaking on her weekly radio show aired over dzXL, the vice president said that audits are not within the mandate of the Office of the Vice President. Duterte's officials have played down the role of the OVP and the vice president, with the Palace calling her a "spare tire."

"The mandate of the vice president is just succession...but auditing is given to a constitutional body for independence so it isn't disrupted by other branches of government," she said in Filipino. 

"There are so many other ways to show that you're anti-corruption. [What about] your SALN? That's one of the biggest ways to really show that there is no corruption."

The Palace has taken the position that the president is only required to file his SALNs with the Office of the Ombudsman. Making it public would be up to the ombudsman, it has said. The Office of the Ombudsman has meanwhile restricted access to officials' SALNs, saying SALN filers need to allow disclosure before these are released.

Philstar.com obtained Robredo's SALN in July through a Freedom of Information request with her office, which it granted "in the interest of transparency" after just one working day.

Robredo accused the president of "deflecting" the conversation, pointing out that "the most important office in at least lessening corruption is the Office of the President." 

"The COA audit reports of offices are assessments to show that our offices are not involved in corruption," she said. 

But Duterte has stood in defense of his officials, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, whose department was flagged for deficiencies that hampered pandemic response.

Duterte claimed Duque was "painted black" by the COA reports and urged government officials to just ignore the commission's findings. 

"That's what I hate about flagging. It creates a conundrum and you know that it's political season. Everyone has tirades, everyone has criticisms. These newspapers act as if they are the epitome of propriety and decency," Duterte said. 

“You make a report, do not flag. Do not publish it because it will condemn the agency or the person you are flagging," he added.

Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, requires government officials to submit their SALNs within 30 days of their entering office.

The act states that "the public has the right to know [officials'] assets, liabilities, net worth and financial and business interests."

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