Senate releases SALN summaries as Palace points at ombudsman process

Senate releases SALN summaries as Palace points at ombudsman process
Senators pose for a traditional group photo during the opening session of the 3rd Regular Session of the 18th Congress, Monday, July 26, 2021.
Henzberg Austria / Senate PRIB

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate on Monday published a summary of its members' wealth declarations, a practice it adopted in 2019 to release information on senators' assets while protecting "personal and privileged information."

The disclosure comes amid Malacañang's insistence that President Rodrigo Duterte could release his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth on his own but will not do so out of "respect" for the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Palace was referring to a memorandum by the ombudsman that requires notarized authorization from SALN filers before they are released. 

While Duterte, who has not released his SALN since 2017, has remained firm about leaving the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman, the Senate has continued its practice of publishing table summaries of its members' wealth declarations. 

Full copies of senators' SALNs are harder to obtain, with the Senate halting their distribution in 2019. According to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the policy was put in place through Senate Policy Order 2019-001, which was meant to "restrict the dissemination of personal and privileged information" under the Data Privacy Act.

PCIJ also noted in a report that it formally requested senators' full wealth declarations on May 24, 2022, but was told on July 6 that the request was still pending. 

The summaries, based on SALNs as of December 31, 2020, show that Sen. Cynthia Villar, who is married to the country's richest man Many Villar, continues to be the upper chamber's richest member, trailed by boxing icon and Sen. Manny Pacquiao. They remain the only billionaires in the Senate. 

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima is still the poorest senator by far with a net worth of 9.54 million, the only seven-figure net worth in the entire lineup. — Bella Perez-Rubio

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