Make no April Fools’ joke on SALNs

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 - The Philippine Star

People who love to play practical jokes and hoaxes celebrate the first day of April every year with funny pranks on each other. Such pranks are supposed to be harmless. Thus, this custom became popularly called April Fools’ Day.

For this year, it just so happened that April 1 fell during the Lenten Week and it coincided with today’s observance of Holy Wednesday. With April ushering the advent of Lent, perhaps people would embrace the spirit of being good Christian citizens.

This is because the month of April is also the time for citizens to pay taxes. All individual and corporate income earned last year must be filed with the Bureau of Internal Revenue on or before April 15.

For those working in government, they have an additional duty to submit their annual Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) on or before April 30 of each year. But the deadline for state agencies to submit the SALNs of their respective officials and employees with the proper repository agency is set on June 30, 2015.

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) had earlier issued new and stricter rules that now require government officials and employees to declare the “exact location” of their real properties in their annual SALN, and not merely “location.”

The property’s description, kind, year and mode of acquisition, assessed value, fair market value, acquisition cost of land or building, including improvements made should also be indicated. The new 2015 guidelines also provide a complete and more explicit list of where public officers and employees should submit their SALNs.

The yearly submission of SALNs is mandated under Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The respective SALNs of President Aquino and Vice President Binay must be submitted directly to the Office of the Ombudsman.

For Cabinet officials and all other presidential advisers and assistants, they must submit their SALNs to the Office of the Executive Secretary.

For senators, they must submit their respective SALNs to the Senate Secretariat. Congressmen, on the other hand, must submit their individual SALNs to the Office of the Secretary General of the House of Representatives as designated repository.

For transparency, Malacañang, the Senate and the House release to the media either the copies of the individual SALNs of officials, or just a summary of the net worth (total assets minus total liabilities) of the public officials. The summary usually is arranged from the highest to the lowest amounts of net worth reported. This explains the yearly report on “who’s the biggest millionaire” or the “poorest” among Cabinet officials, senators and House members.

For the 15-man justices of the Supreme Court (SC) headed by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, they submit their SALNs to the SC en banc. Or, in plain language, they file their SALNs to themselves as a whole body. But for the rest of the members of the judiciary down to the lowest courts, they must submit their SALNs to the SC Court Administrator.

Unlike the Executive and Legislative branches of government, the Judiciary is less accommodating to make public their SALNs. The SC last year issued a ruling that the public or media must first make a formal petition if they wish to get copies of SALNs of the SC justices. The SC en banc will determine the validity of the request whether to allow or refuse public disclosure of SC justices’ SALN.

For officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from the rank of Colonel/Naval Captain to 4-star General, they must submit their respective SALNs to the Office of the President, being their Commander-in-chief. AFP officers below these ranks, depending on their individual salary grades must file their SALNs to the CSC, or to the Ombudsman.  

For officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP), their highest-ranking officer – the Director-General – must submit his SALN to both the CSC and the Ombudsman. The rest of the PNP officers down to the lowest rank, depending on their salary grades, must submit their SALNs to either the CSC or the Ombudsman.          

All elected local government officials must file their annual SALNs to the Ombudsman as repository office.

The rest of the 1.3 million government officials and employees have to submit their individual SALNs to their respective agencies.

Under RA 6713, failure to file SALN is punishable by suspension for one month and one day up to six months for the first offense, and by dismissal from the service for the second offense.

Even if they submit their SALNs on time, willful or knowingly mis-declaring acquired income, assets, and earnings can also get officials and employees in trouble.

There are numerous cases filed against a number of government officials and employees for false declarations in their SALNs.

The highest-ranking official of the Judiciary, in fact, got impeached and removed from office for alleged window-dressing of his SALN.

On top of that, the Ombudsman filed a P130.3-million ill-gotten wealth case against former Chief Justice Renato Corona and his wife Cristina before the Sandiganbayan. The couple allegedly accumulated unexplained assets from 2001 to 2011 which were allegedly not declared in their SALNs during the same period.

Another case involved a forfeiture case against former Justice Secretary Hernando “Nani” Perez who served from 2001 to 2003 during the previous administration. The Ombudsman dug up records showing Perez allegedly did not disclose in his 2001 and 2002 SALNs his and his wife’s financial interest of at least $1.7 million purportedly transferred to their accounts. 

The case of Corona remains pending at Sandiganbayan while the case of Perez is pending final resolution at the Ombudsman.

So, it is no April Fools’ joke if public officials and employees do not make full and honest disclosure in their SALNs of their personal wealth, and worse, if they willfully mis-declare their net worth.












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