After earlier hesitation, Marcos says 'perfectly willing to release' SALNs

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
After earlier hesitation, Marcos says 'perfectly willing to release' SALNs
This photo release shows presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. in a campaign caravan in Batangas in December 2021.
Facebook, Bongbong Marcos

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 7:18 p.m.) — Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said Monday evening that he is "perfectly willing" to release his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth to the puiblic but said that it would be better to have authorities investigate questionable wealth.

Speaking to a panel of journalists earlier in the day, he said that he would rather not release it since wealth declarations can be used by political opponents.

"Pag gagamitin lang sa pulitika, wag na lang. (If they will use it for politics, never mind) ‘Ganun na lang, let’s keep it simple," he told the panel moderated by suspended lawyer  Trixie Cruz- Angeles, a social media personality supportive of him and President Rodrigo Duterte.

Speaking on "Sa Totoo Lang" on One PH, he said, though that he is "perfectly willing to release it."

Corona impeachment

"I based (the comment) on the experience of the impeachment trial of [Chief Justice Renato] Corona where the SALN was used for politics," he said in Filipino.

"So, I said, if I am your poltiical rival and you give me your SALN, I will look for issues against you," he also said. "So what I'm saying is if there is a case, then let's go to the proper authorities." 

Corona was impeached and then removed as head of the judiciary in 2012 for betrayal of public trust for failure to disclose his assets in his wealth declaration document.

"Because all politicians, they have opponents. They can find — they can make an issue even where there is no issue, and my prime example is Corona…. They manipulated the analysis of his SALN to make it look like he was hiding something," he also told the panel partly in Filipino earlier Monday.

Corona was convicted in 2012 by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court. Impeachment is the constitutional process to remove officials like the president, vice president, chief justice and the heads of constitutional bodies.

"It just gets in the way of everything, which is absolutely unnecessary," Marcos said.

He said questions on officials' wealth should be left to the Office of the Ombudsman or the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which can examine the wealth declaration documents.

'Transparency and accountability are correct'

Also speaking on "Sa Totoo Lang" in October 2021 about the release of SALNs, he said:  "'Yan, okay ‘yan, transparency, accountability, tama ‘yan." 

(Yes, that's okay. Transparency, accountability are correct)

During his stint as senator in 2010 to 2016, Marcos like all his colleagues at the upper chamber of Congress released his SALN.

Asked about this, he said: "Because for us senators, wala naman kaming inaano… we show the SALN but I think we have to be more protective you know the SALN is actually, is actually it shows exactly what your economic activity has been for all your life."

The Marcoses have been accused of amassing ill-gotten wealth during the dictatorship of their patriarch. The Presidential Commission on Good Governance was created to recover this wealth from the family and from the elder Marcos' cronies.

After receiving backlash for skipping the interview with GMA News journalist Jessica Soho, Marcos on Monday sat down with journalists from DWIZ, Philippine Graphic, CNN Philippines, Business Mirror and Pilipino Mirror. The interview was supposed to air live at 10 a.m., but Angeles said they experienced slow internet connection and that the recorded interview would be uploaded after.

Marcos' fellow presidential aspirants — Vice President Leni Robredo, Sens. Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno — answered in the affirmative when they were asked by Soho if they are in favor of publizing their SALNs.

Duterte’s SALNs

Duterte, whom Marcos hopes to succeed, stopped releasing his SALNs in recent years, deferring instead to the Office of the Ombudsman that has custody over the wealth declaration documents of the president, vice president and constitutional officials. The Palace has maintained that government officials are only required to file their SALNs to satisfy the requirement for transparency.

In September 2021, his then-spokesperson said Duterte "could" release his SALN but "he respects the Ombudsman".

Ombudsman Samuel Martires issued in 2020 Memorandum Circular No. 1 Series of 2020 limits the release of SALNs only to the SALN declarants themselves or their duly authorized representatives, to the court in relation to a pending case, and to ombudsman investigators for the purpose of conducting a fact-finding investigation.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism said the non-release of Duterte’s wealth declaration form for 2018 marked the first time in 30 years that a Philippine president had not made their SALN public.

The Supreme Court meanwhile last year junked a petition challenging the Ombudsman’s memorandum circular that states that no wealth declaration document "will be furnished to the requester unless he/she presents a notarized letter of authority from declarant allowing the release of the request SALN."

Obudsman Martires last year proposed "stringent penalties, that anyone who makes a comment on this SALN of a particular government official and employee must be liable for at least an imprisonment of not less than five years, and a fine not exceeding P5,000.— with Jonathan de Santos

(Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect comments that Marcos made in a subsequent interview on One PH about the release of SALNs.)

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